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October 22nd, 2007

Justice Prevails in Baton Rouge – For Once

I honestly didn't expect ultra-conservative Baton Rouge to vote out the no-liquor-Sunday blue law this past weekend. I hoped - but I didn't hold very high expectations.

I'd like to believe that our voters finally opened their eyes to the relevance of the separation of church and state in a democratic and free nation. Most likely, though, the "yes" vote comes from the considerable influx of the more liberal and open-minded New Orleanians now living in the capital city since Katrina.

Whatever the reason, it is something to celebrate - a landmark in the otherwise right-wing, unprogressive, overtly pious city in which I reside.

There was no valid reason - other than a Christian one - for not allowing the sale of liquor and wine on Sundays. In fact, city groceries and convenience store owners, due to the massive amount of revenue they were losing, convinced the city council years ago to allow the selling of beer after 12:00 noon. Restaurants, as well, were allowed to sell liquor (of any kind) after 11am and with meals.

It is obvious, then, that the refusal to sell hard liquor and wine was not intended to curb drinking or limit drunken drivers on the roads - had this been the case, all liquor in all places would have been off limits for purchase. Instead, the limited prohibition on liquor sales was, pure and simple, a blue law - one, in this case, created by Christians in an attempt to force everyone to acknowledge their sacred day of rest.

Such secular-based laws are completely unconstitutional - forcing everyone, regardless of their beliefs, to adhere to one particular religion's practices goes against the very notion of a "free" country. Freedom of religion does not just mean that you are free to worship as you please - it also infers that you are free to exist without another's religious views being forced upon you.

The majority of Baton Rougers agree - 61% of the city chose to nix the law, and it now goes on to the Metro Council for a final vote. Since voters also decided to give the Metro Council members a raise, one can only hope they'll listen to the will of the people and finally remove this arbitrary "law" from the books.

Justice does sometimes prevail - even in a generally unjust region.

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