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The Puritans were exiled from Europe and settled in America in the 17th century, and Europe’s been laughing at us ever since. Back in their day they enact a collection of “Blue laws”, secular regulations made to enforce one to obey religious ordinance. It’s bad enough they used the law to force everyone in their area to adhere to their belief, but far, far worse that no one has repealed them all.

Some are still on the books.

Most of these laws have set root in the New England area, and include such things as:

  • Sabbath Regulations. Typically, all forms of trade or commerce were outlawed on Sundays. No public entertainment or meetings were permitted, except of course for church services, which often included two-hour services in the morning and the afternoon. Travel on Sunday was banned, except for emergencies. Violators were subject to fines imposed by civil authorities. Some went so far as to limit the number of steps a person could take in a day; excess walking was not resting as one should on the sabbath.
  • Family Relationships. Efforts were made in many communities to provide social stability through legislation. Husbands and wives were required to live together to keep families intact. Parents risked losing their children if it were found that they were being poorly educated. The Puritans placed a heavy emphasis on the ability to read and understand the Bible, so great effort was expended to educate the community.
  • Sumptuary Laws. Many New England towns passed laws intended to prevent excesses in the areas of clothing and food consumption. Motivations in these instances were somewhat mixed. Part of the explanation can be found in the desire to prevent excessive human behavior. However, there was also an element of trying to keep people in their proper social stations. Fines were imposed on people on the lower rungs of society who dressed in silk or wore silver buckles on their shoes—perfectly acceptable practices for the upper classes.
  • Public Behavior. Community members found guilty of drunkenness, idleness or gossiping were made the targets of public ridicule during their confinement in the stocks or pillory. No celebrations of Christmas, other holidays or church weddings were permitted since those events were not sanctioned in the Bible. Public displays of affection between the sexes, even between husband and wife, were prohibited.

And some highlights:

  • No one shall be a freeman, or give a vote, unless he be converted, and a member in full communion of one of the Churches allowed in this Dominion.
  • If any person turns Quaker, he shall be banished, and not suffered to return but upon pain of death.
  • No one shall travel, cook victuals, make beds, sweep house, cut hair, or shave, on the Sabbath day.
  • No woman shall kiss her child on the Sabbath or fasting-day.
  • A person accused of trespass in the night shall be judged guilty, unless he clear himself by his oath.

This year the Whole Foods supermarket chain in Massachusetts wanted to open on Thanksgiving Day in order to cater to last minute and poor planning celebrators, but they were forbidden to do so but a remaining “Blue Law”.

The puritans are still making our life hard, and the Europeans are still laughing at us for taking them.

Wikipedia Blue Laws