A group calling itself “Modernize Bergen County” is nearing its goal of putting on the November ballot an initiative calling for a repeal of the discriminatory blue laws in that county, the last holdout in all of the United States.
The blue laws, for those unaware of them, prohibit most businesses from being open on Sunday, even those that are owned by the Shabbat-observant and who thus already are closed one day a week (Saturday). This clearly puts them at a disadvantage.
It also is a disadvantage to the Shabbat-observant consumer. Many stores in the county offer “Saturday only” and “Weekend Only” sales. The Shabbat-observant cannot take advantage of these sales during daylight savings time, when Shabbat ends too late to give them time to rush to the malls before the stores close.
The blue laws also cost Bergen’s communities tax revenue, because so many residents flock to neighboring counties, including New York and Rockland, to shop in their stores and malls on Sundays. That also means that much fuel is wasted.
Our local representatives in Trenton have not been of much help on this issue because it is a political minefield. Opposition to ending the blue laws comes from powerful Paramus and from area churches. Paramus does not want the peace of its roads disturbed on Sundays, which is a valid argument. Churches do not want the blue laws repealed because it violates their Sabbath. (They have no qualms about the religious discrimination imposed on the Saturday-observant, meaning Jews and Seventh Day Adventists.)
The only way the blue laws will end in the county is for “we the people” to end them, and the proposed referendum is that path.
We are not unmindful of the opposition from Paramus and from the churches. If we had our way, we would craft a law that requires stores to be closed on either Saturday or Sunday, but not both days.
The referendum would not end the blue laws entirely. It would repeal them for the county. Every community can then decide locally whether to reimpose them on their own turf. Paramus can still have its peace, but Englewood can open its stores.
We urge our readers to sign the petitions being circulated by “Modernize Bergen County.” We congratulate the organization and its founders and volunteers for taking the lead on this important issue.