The recent discussion regarding a liquor store near Albany State University has clearly illustrated how our community is divided by ideas on alcohol. Many still see it as a great evil that government should fight. Unfortunately, this crusade may well fall on the wrong side of the First Amendment.
The First Amendment is supposed to prevent there being a state religion, and yet Georgia’s blue laws (and various communities’, as well) may well take a step in doing just that. You see, contrary to some people’s opinions, not every faith is getting an equal shake from the laws.
First, there are many faiths that don’t actually have a prohibition against alcohol. Judaism, Catholicism, and many protestant faiths as well have no prohibition against partaking of alcohol. They don’t see it as being a great evil, except perhaps in excess. However, anything in excess is unhealthy. Alcohol is hardly alone in that regard.
Not only that, but there are some faiths that do share a prohibition against alcohol who don’t worship on Sundays. Seventh Day Adventists, for example, share some faith’s ideas about alcohol but honor Saturday as the Sabbath. These faiths aren’t getting a fair shake, now are they?
In truth, there are only a handful of religions that have the view that alcohol is a sin and shouldn’t be imbibed. Laws that outlaw liquor sales on Sundays could easily be construed as establishing religious preference for some faiths over others. All it would take is one attorney hoping to make a name for himself to make that move.
I can hear the arguments now. I’ve heard them before. Some will say that the First Amendment only restrains Congress. I can understand that sentiment. Unfortunately for those who take this tact, the courts routinely disagree. Freedom to assemble, freedom of speech, and freedom to petition are also outlined in that First Amendment and yet the courts have routinely applied them to local and state governments as well. Frankly, the argument doesn’t hold water.
Some will argue – as a fellow columnist did last week in the pages of this paper – that alcohol’s sheer danger requires limits. However, alcohol is legal. It has been for some time. That means that these limits will not stop people from drinking. Sunday liquor sales wouldn’t cause a sudden increase in drinking. Allowing a liquor store across the street from a church won’t suddenly make the members of the congregation become alcoholics. One across the street from a college won’t make the students drink. Truth be told, they’re already doing it.
Still others will say that I just want to have more access to alcohol myself. That may sound all fine and good, but the truth is that I don’t really drink much anymore. I won’t go into why, but it involves me, some friends, a local franchise whose name is reminiscent of an owl’s call, and me in the trademark uniform. Don’t ask. I realized that enough was enough, so I quit. I’m not an alcoholic, but someone who decided he didn’t like losing control of himself.
Before you say that I don’t understand what it’s like having an alcoholic in the family, I warn you not to even think about going there. My uncle on my mother’s side, a man only 12 years older than me and more like a brother than an uncle, died due to the effects of his own alcoholism at the ripe old age of 39. I’ve seen it. I still mourn him. I wish he could have lived to see me writing these columns.
No argument will stop the idea that people are responsible for their own actions, and any attempt by any government is not only unnecessary but also wrong. You will not successfully protect people from themselves. Just looking at the number of drug addicts in a society where drugs are illegal should be more than enough to illustrate that you can’t stop people from doing harm to themselves.
Unlike with illicit drugs, many people safely enjoy alcohol responsibly. Quit trying to stop them from doing something that’s legal and trust people to be responsible. Most of the time, they are.
<blockquote><em><span style=”color: #888888;”><img title=”tomknighton” src=”http://thealbanyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/tomknighton-206×300.jpg” alt=”tomknighton” width=”206″ height=”300″ />Written by Tom Knighton. Read his blog at <a href=”http://tomknighton.com/index” target=”_blank”>TomKnighton.com</a>, as well as <a href=”http://swgapolitics.com/index” target=”_self”>SWGAPolitics.com</a>.<a href=”http://swgapolitics.com/index/”> </a>A lifelong political junkie, Tom started out his adult life as a journalism major at Darton College before leaving school to serve his nation as a U.S. Navy Corpsman. Through the years, he has watched government from outside and inside. A former Reagan supporter, then later a Democrat, Tom now finds himself quite comfortable as a card carrying Libertarian and currently serves as Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Southwest Georgia.