Let them buy cars

Letters to the Portland Editor, July 23, 2010

In Maine, you can buy a gun on a Sunday, but you can't buy a car. In fact, in Maine you can buy almost anything you want on a Sunday, except for a car. Maine state law forbids car-buying on Sundays.

The law prohibiting the sale of automobiles on Sundays is a remnant of ancient "blue laws," or "Sunday closing laws." But almost all the blue laws relating to commercial activity have been loosened or eliminated, except for the law against car-buying.

Long ago, and especially during the times of the Puritans, many businesses shut down their shops on Sundays. But in the modern world there is plenty of commerce taking place, with malls and restaurants and theaters remaining open.

Does it make sense to you that you can go shopping for items like couches, clothing, televisions, computers, and shotguns on a Sunday, but not for automobiles? We should get rid of this law against car shopping that restricts our independent choices for no good reason.

The Maine law prohibits engaging in the "buying, selling, exchanging, dealing or trading of new or used motor vehicles on Sunday." Car dealers who violate this law face harsh economic penalties.

There have been recent attempts at repeal. In February, state representative Don Pilon of Saco introduced a bill in the Maine Legislature to overturn the law. His effort was squashed, ironically enough, by the Committee on Economic Development.

As far as I'm concerned, this law against car-buying is draconian.

I celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday, not Sunday. For me and my family and my community, it's really difficult to purchase a car in Maine. Whereas laws should be designed to bring order to society, this law makes our lives chaotic. When we try to buy a car, we are squeezed for time. We must take off from work to go car shopping, and our time window for shopping for a major purchase is very limited.

Maine is one of the few states in our country that has Sunday closing laws in effect for automobile shops.

In my opinion that this law is religious coercion, because it mandates that society observe the Christian Sabbath in a certain way. Those types of laws are too restrictive. We once closed down movie theaters on Sundays in Maine, but no longer. We do not tolerate mandates about what we, as a society, can and cannot do on the Sabbath. That's what the Taliban do in Afghanistan; that's not what we do in America.

The big question then is: Why is this law against car shopping still around?

The answer is that many car dealerships and those who work at dealerships are afraid of what may happen if the law is changed. They are concerned that they will have to work on Sundays and this will cause hardship for their families. I respect those concerns. But car dealers can still decide to remain closed, after the restrictive law is cancelled. There are many owners of stores who close up shop on Sunday without state interference, and car dealers can do the same thing. The state, however, has no business mandating closures of car dealerships.

Our legislators have a responsibility to abrogate this unfair law. They must ensure that we have a system of law in Maine that is reasonable, logical, and which does not discriminate. Their job is not to be accountable to special interest groups, such as car dealerships.

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