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N.Y. State Court Strikes Down Sunday Closing Law

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The New York State Court of Appeals today struck down as unconstitutional the state’s law requiring retail stores to be closed on Sunday. In a unanimous decision the seven members of the state’s highest court threw out the conviction of a Poughkeepsie pharmacist who was fined for selling a $1.03 piggy-bank on a Sunday.

In the unanimous decision written by Judge Sol Wachtler, the court noted that there were so many exceptions to the law and the law was so badly written as to make it unconstitutional. Judge Jacob Fuchsberg wrote a separate concurring opinion. Hailing the decision, Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, president of the American Jewish Congress, voiced “deep gratification” at the ruling. He declared:

“For more than 30 years we have maintained that Sunday closing laws are unfair, discriminatory and basically inconsistent with the concepts of freedom of religion and church-state separation embedded in the federal and state constitutions. This policy stems from our direct experience with the impact of Sunday laws on the many members of the Jewish community whose religious principles bar them from doing business on the Jewish Sabbath.” Hertzberg said the court’s “decision fully vindicates our position and places the authority of this distinguished court in support of the principle that the Sunday blue laws have no proper place in today’s society. We look forward to acceptance of this principle throughout the nation. In any case, the matter is decided for the great majority of Sabbath observing American Jews who live in New York.”

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