Well-intentioned law needs to go

Published 9:59 am Saturday, June 25, 2011

Here in the South, there are certain thickets into which a columnist treads carefully.

Tidewater News scribe Rex Alphin a year or so ago dared to extol the virtues of an adult beverage, drawing a sharp rebuke from readers for whom drinking is morally reprehensible and physically harmful.

I risk a similar fate with the following: Virginia can no longer justify, as a legal matter or a matter of public policy, its ban on Sunday hunting.

I grew up in an era of “blue laws,” although it should be noted that, in our house, no law protecting the sacredness of Sunday was needed. By fatherly edict, Sunday was a day of worship and rest.

When a new department store in my Deep South hometown appealed to city fathers for a modest relaxation of the local blue law, my dad, a fundamentalist preacher, was on the front row at the city council meeting and the first to speak in opposition. A dozen other preachers and churchgoers followed him to the podium. The department store lost.

Admittedly, I miss the quaintness of childhood Sundays. To this day, I strive for Sundays free of commercial distractions and interruptions.

Families of like mind should seek the same. Preachers should encourage their congregants to make Sunday about worship and family. Self-imposed blue laws are fine by me.

Blatantly unconstitutional, though, is the state telling a citizen what legal activities he can and can’t pursue on a particular day. The hunters I know aren’t a class-action kind of group; if they were, Virginia’s Sunday hunting ban would last about a day after reaching the docket of the Supreme Court.

Even if it were legally justifiable, there’s the problem of consistency. Hunting on Sunday is illegal, but it’s OK to play golf, fish or water ski on Sunday? Can the General Assembly be any more hypocritical?

A turning point in Virginia’s reconsideration of its Sunday hunting ban occurred this month when the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ board, which had been firmly on the fence for years, jumped off and said the law needs to go.

That endorsement will give reluctant lawmakers the cover they need to retire a law that, while honorable in its intent, can no longer be justified.

STEVE STEWART is publisher of The Tidewater News. His email address is steve.stewart@tidewaternews.com.