blue law

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Blue law is a colloquial term for state statute or ordinance that forbids or regulates entertainment and commercial activities (ex. sale of liquor) on Sundays or religious holidays. Blue laws can also be referred to as Sunday closing laws, Sabbath laws, and uniform day of rest laws.

Originating in England, blue laws were enacted through colonial America to protect Christian Sabbath as mandated by the Fourth Commandment. Despite centuries of change, blue laws remain in effect in many states even today.

Blue laws frequently have been challenged as unconstitutional establishments of religion in violation of the First Amendment. While the Supreme Court has acknowledged the overtly religious origins of blue laws in McGowan v. Marylandthey were upheld as advancing the secular purpose of creating a uniform day of rest.

See e.g., Providence Square Associates, L.L.C. v. G.D.F., Inc. 211 F.3d 846 (2000).

[Last updated in June of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team