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When Sunday is just another day

Society loses, a study finds, if it doesn't promote a day of rest and regeneration.

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Maybe early leaders in America were on to something when they insisted that people take time out on Sunday for worship, or at least a day of quietude. A new study on the effects of fewer "blue laws" seems to back that up.

Today's relentless seven days of commerce exacts a measurable toil on society, it says, especially in the form of more heavy drinking and drug abuse – and that's just among churchgoers.

"The church versus the mall," a study by two economists at MIT and Notre Dame universities, found that the repeal of state blue laws banning retail sales on Sunday over the past half-century, has lead to an increase in drinking and drug use among those who attend church. What's more, congregants visited their place of worship less frequently and donated less money to it as well.

In sum, the study said that competition from alternative Sunday activities (i.e. shopping) "may have negative consequences for individuals or society."

Retailers have argued with great success that busy Americans need time on Sunday to shop. The Distilled Spirits Council has led the charge to repeal bans on Sunday liquor sales. As a result, only 15 states have kept some kind of restriction. Legislators have buckled to this powerful lobby, unable to resist the promise of extra revenue from liquor taxes.

Like it or not, Secular Sunday is here in full force to compete with Sacred Sunday – and appears to be winning.

US society is a mix of religious adherents and nonbelievers. It would be wrong to argue a special halt to commercial activity for the benefit of a single religion.

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