One can not order a glass of wine with one’s meal on a Sunday evening in Tuscaloosa Alabama. Well, one could order a glass of wine, but the wine would not be served because it is illegal, in Tuscaloosa, for a restaurant to serve alcoholic beverages on Sunday. We drove up from New Orleans this afternoon, stopping in Tuscaloosa in the hope that we might have a fine lunch tomorrow at Chuck’s Fish, a world class restaurant, before proceeding on to Birmingham. Chuck’s Fish is not open on Sunday, but this evening I ventured downtown in search of a passable supper and a decent glass of wine. I was stunned to learn that I would not be served any wine, due to an archaic law of a type, referred to in my childhood, as a “blue law”, a most barbaric form of legislation, designed to remind us that, despite all the freedom of religion rhetoric spewed out by most of our elected officials, we actually do have a state religion, Protestant Christianity(I say Protestant,because I’ve never known Catholics to care when or where one drinks). These laws make a big deal about the sabbath, but only the Christian sabbath, Jews and Muslims can defile their sabbath, Saturday, perfectly legally.
I Googled blue law and came up with an article by one David J. Hanson Ph.D. Hanson claims that the first blue law in the American colonies was enacted in Virginia in 1617. The law required church attendance and authorized the militia to force colonists to attend church services. Later, laws were enacted to regulate what one could or could not do at home on Sunday. One could not wear lace or precious metals or engage in recreation. (It’s still illegal to hunt on Sunday in Virginia. So I guess Jesus was an anti hunter. Go tell the Republicans!). Sexual intercourse on the Sabbath was also banned, and since Puritans held the belief that a child was born on the same day of the week on which it was conceived, parents of children born on Sunday were often punished for violating the blue law nine months before. At some point, the main focus of the blue laws shifted to alcohol.
In Texas, we have dry counties, where one can’t purchase alcohol on any day of the week, but they are usually pretty far out in the sticks, where anyone accustomed to a fine Barbera is not likely to be ordering a meal in a public place. Compared to these places, Tuscaloosa is Paris. It’s a major college town, home to the University of Alabama, with at least one fine restaurant, yoga classes, all the trappings of reasonably refined modern culture, but it is still under the thumb of the nine hundred foot Jesus. I suppose it’s not the end of the world that I couldn’t get my wine, but I surely hate being denied something in order that others might get to continue to believe they’re going to heaven.
We now have a Vice Presidential candidate who, as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, inquired of the librarian of the Wasilla Public Library, how to go about getting certain books that offended the mayor’s Christian sensibilities pulled from the shelves. Here’s my suggestion to Sarah Palin, and anyone else who likes to legislate the morality of their fellow humans. Move to the dry county of your choice and live your life as you see fit. Refrain from activities that you think Jesus wouldn’t allow. Let the rest of us drink and read what we want in merry anticipation of fire and brimstone, if you believe in that sort of thing.