Freedom to close businesses on Sunday is worth preserving

Living in a community bordering Highland, we see lots of signs for and against local Proposition 6, which would do away with the city’s Sunday closing. The anti-Proposition 6 campaign is in the right. People don’t need to shop on Sunday, essential services are still available, and communities ought to be able to protect widely shared standards in their policies. The Deseret News made a good case for Sunday-closing laws in April.

What is intriguing to me is the slogan the proponents of adding one more day of merchandising to the week have chosen. The “Yes on Proposition 6” signs include a one-word motto: “Freedom.”

This slogan is fatuous. Freedom from what? Community standards? What about employees who want the freedom to spend the day with their families? What about the freedom of young people to find jobs in the community that don’t require them to miss church services? What about the freedom of businesses that would be forced by national management to open on Sundays absent the law? What about the freedom of people who move to a city because of its standards to choose the environment in which they will live?

The mindset of those who claim that abandoning community standards is a question of freedom is revealing. They seem to be able to see only two parties — the business and the government. If the government is restraining business activity in any way, freedom is curtailed. In reality, there are many other players who deserve consideration. There are neighborhoods that want to preserve social capital, families who want time together, individuals who want to work without forgoing Sunday worship; there are communities that want to retain a distinct ethic (one that is still valued in many places where Sunday closing is common). Their freedom is threatened by the policy of uniformity promoted by the seven-day-a-week-shopping proponents.

The people of any city should be able to preserve distinctive policies that preserve their communities.  This is a matter of freedom, a freedom much richer than the “freedom” of businesses to operate one more day of the week despite what that decision might do to families, employees and neighborhoods.

So if you want to make the case for Sunday business, argue that hopes for attracting new revenue should trump other considerations. Or argue that all communities should be the same. Those are weak arguments, but they get to the real issues.

But freedom? Its real defenders are on the other side of the issue.