North Dakota Considers Repealing Sunday Morning Shopping Ban

North Dakota’s ban is negatively affecting the state’s shopping competitiveness.

Residents of North Dakota can finally go shopping on Sunday mornings if a 19th century ban in the state is repealed. A few legislators are questioning the ban, which has its origins in religious tradition. Currently, someone in North Dakota can order an alcoholic drink at a bar on Sunday mornings, but they cannot go shopping.

North Dakota Considers Repealing Sunday Morning Shopping Ban[/tweetthis]

These restrictions were put in place in the latter part of the 19th century. North Dakota was given statehood in 1889. The limitations were imposed with the belief that retail store visits during Sunday mornings would erode family values, compete with church schedules, and leave little time for Sunday rest.

Lawmakers, through House Bill 1163, are trying to repeal the “Sunday closing law.” Non-compliance to this law makes it a class B misdemeanor for anyone who operates a business open to the public from 12am to 12pm on Sunday. As with all prohibitions, there are exceptions. Restaurants and hotels can serve liquor beginning at 11am. The bill was heard by House Industry, Business and Labor Committee on January 23.

The ban is supported by Andy Peterson, the CEO and president of Greater North Dakota Association, the state’s chamber of commerce. He said this law pushes down economic freedom. The same opinion was echoed by Brandon Medenwald, the co-founder of the Simply Made Apps based in Fargo. He pointed out that North Dakota shoppers cross over the state border to buy things in Minnesota instead, which hurts North Dakota.

Representative Pam Anderson, a Democrat elected from Fargo, cited loss of tax revenues as a reason to repeal the ban. She said it is annoying for any North Dakota resident to wait until the afternoon to shop. It also does not help that this law erodes the competitiveness of North Dakota businesses. She also says the argument about church attendance is not valid because many people attend services on Wednesdays instead.

Christopher Dodson, executive director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference, maintains that the law isn’t about religion, rather saying “The purpose of the law is to provide a common period of rest and relaxation for the benefits of families and communities. Humans and communities need periods of rest and free time that allow them to tend to family, cultural, social and religious life.”

The bill is in the stage where it is to be examined by the House Committee. It wants to lift prohibition on almost all sales done on Sundays, but it does not touch the ban on half-day vehicle sales. Anderson has previously termed the assumption that Sunday morning sales will undermine church visits. It must be said that a number of states had, at one time, similar laws. Only North Dakota continues to bar shopping on Sunday mornings.


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