Well-intentioned law needs to go

Published 9:44 pm Tuesday, February 11, 2014

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

Suffolk News-Herald scribe Rex Alphin a few years back dared to extol the virtues of an adult beverage, drawing a sharp rebuke from readers who consider drinking to be morally reprehensible and physically harmful.

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


Email newsletter signup

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 didn’t stand a chance.

Admittedly, I miss the quaintness of my childhood Sundays. To this day, I strive for Sundays that are 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’s 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 wouldn’t last long 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?

The General Assembly, after years of foot-dragging, finally appears ready to put an end to the hypocrisy. Both the Senate and House have passed bills to legalize Sunday hunting on private land with the landowner’s consent. Gov. Terry McAuliffe has indicated he’ll sign it.

The time is right for Virginia to retire a law that, while honorable in its intent, can no longer be justified.

Steve Stewart is publisher of the Suffolk News-Herald. His email address is steve.stewart@suffolknewsherald.com.