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Orthodox Jews in Philadelphia Fight Pennsylvania Sunday Law

A special three-judge Federal court had under advisement today a request from five Philadelphia Jewish merchants, all Orthodox Jews, that it declare unconstitutional Pennsylvania’s new Sunday blue laws which ban most business activities on Sundays.

At a hearing yesterday, the five merchants declared that the law violated the First and Fourteenth amendments to the United States Constitution by interfering with the free exercise of religion. They said they closed their stores on the Jewish Sabbath, starting at sundown on Friday through sundown Saturday and that they had remained open on Sundays.

The new law, which specifically bans the sale of certain items, also boosted the penalty for violations from a maximum of four dollars to $200 plus a jail term.

Opposition arguments were made by Harry J. Rubin, speaking for the State Attorney General, and Arthur Littleton, for the Pennsylvania Retailers Association. Mr. Rubin said that the new law, based on a statute dating back to 1794, did not infringe on the constitutional rights of Pennsylvania residents. Mr. Littleton argued that the state legislature had full rights to restrict purely commercial activities on Sundays.

Circuit Judge William Hastie and District Judges J. Cullen Ganey and Thomas Egan were expected to issue a ruling soon.

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