November 30, 2006
It's one of the biggest holiday shopping days of the year, but this year, Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday.
South Carolina's Sunday Blue Laws require that stores that sell non-essential items to stay closed on Sundays. The law was enacted in colonial days, well before the US was even founded.
In Aiken County, the law requires stores to stay closed until 1:30 p.m.
Many say the old laws aren't keeping up with the times, and now, under a new proposed ordinance in Aiken County, that law may be put on hold.
"Last-minute shoppers carry us through the year," said Mike Willis, owner of Artist's Parlor.
The law was created to protect people who have "a conscientious objection to Sunday work", but some council members are saying it's time for a change.
County Council member Chuck Smith says that while he agrees recognizing freedom of religion in the US is important, consumers should also have the right to shop if they want.
"It prohibits consumers from shopping when they want to, so I'd like to see the Blue Laws change," he said. "We're in an economy today where we have to offer people choices, or they go somewhere else."
So...to shop or not to shop?
What's the big deal, you might say?
For some, it's a very big deal.
"Why can't we honor God one day?" asked Blue Laws supporter Deborah Beck. "It's birth of Jesus, not the store."
Even though it's a state law, counties can exempt themselves from it. Most counties have done that.
The proposed ordinance passed at Tuesday's Aiken County Council meeting by a 4 to 2 vote, with one councilman abstaining.
The proposal will now face a final vote on December 12.