Posts Tagged “blue laws”

My home state of Connecticut has a history of Puritan parochiality. The original three colonies which eventually became the single Connecticut colony (Connecticut/River Colony, Saybrook Colony, and New Haven), were all established by Puritans (Pilgrims), who disapproved of many practices of their time … gambling, drinking, observing Christmas, and more. To a Puritan, pretty much everything which wasn’t either work or church attendance was an evil vice to be avoided at all costs. And while they retained political power, they prohibited even non-Puritans living within their domains from engaging in any of these vices — hence Connecticut’s infamous Blue Laws, vestiges of which remain on the books even now. Granted, this state is no longer run by Puritans — and hasn’t been since before the U.S. was founded — but Connecticut nevertheless retains a sometimes-furious Puritanical streak that continuously reasserts itself.

An example of this “modern-day religious Puritanicalism” can be seen in this story about the city of New Haven allowing bars to remain open another hour, every night, in order to ease congestion (as reported by WVIT-TV in Hartford):

People who have partied in the bars along Crown Street in New Haven can tell you what closing time is like. …

To cut down on the chaos, Town Green Special Services District Director Rena Eddy recently floated the idea of letting the bars stay open an hour later, until 3 a.m. …

But staying open later won’t mean more time to drink. If the proposal happens, last call would still be at the same time, but bars would have until 3 am. to serve food and soft drinks, before getting people out the door.

Giving people an hour to get out of the bars rather than just a couple of minutes, seems like a reasonable way of dealing with this congestion and havoc. But the churches of New Haven are having none of this:

At a forum on violence in the Elm City, organized by the Christian Community Comission Brotherhood Leadership Summit, reaction was to the proposal was immediate Wednesday night.

“That’s terrible,” said CCC Executive Director Minister Donald Morris.

Morris doesn’t overtly state that his objection to this is religious, but he does cite a reason which — in the end — has nothing to do with the problem:

Morris said the timing is also bad, given the murder of a Hamden man last month at Sinergy, a Crown Street nightclub.

“You had a young man both shot and killed and another stabbed. We don’t need another bar and we certainly don’t need an extension of bar time,” said Minister Morris.

The reason these things happened was not due to the amount of time the bars were opened, it was due to the fact that people drink in bars and some of those people get into fights. If he’s truly interested in reducing violence among the drunks in New Haven’s bars, that might actually be achieved, if the nightly chaos caused by the mass exodus from the bars were alleviated.

But little things like rationality don’t matter much to would-be Puritan religionists, I guess.

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My home state of Connecticut is an odd place. It’s a “blue state” which — despite having a Republican governor — is run by Democrats in the legislature and its state employee unions. As a whole it votes liberal and Democratic reliably and consistently. It’s only the third state to permit gay marriage — by virtue of the Connecticut Supreme Court ruling in Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health. Compared with the rest of the country, Nutmeggers are extremely liberal.

But in a few ways it’s still a very parochial state. It still has blue laws, for example. Connecticut also has three very powerful and influential Roman Catholic dioceses (those of Bridgeport and Norwich, and the archdiocese of Hartford) which have, over the last year and a half, become extremely “activist” along Religious-Right lines, as I’ve blogged already. (Even though nationally the Religious Right tends to be Protestant, not Catholic.)

The reason for their political activism is not immediately clear … however, I suspect it’s a push-back effort … the dioceses in Connecticut have suffered from bad press for several years as a result of pedophile priests (such as Fr Stephen Foley, who — when he was sued by one of his victims — the archdiocese of Hartford tried to keep from being deposed in civil court (WebCite cached article). By ramming Religious Right-type causes down Nutmeggers’ throats and trying to make themselves into “kingmakers,” the bishops are playing on Connecticut’s underlying stream of parochiality, hoping to have at least one success that gets people to forget their complicity in previous scandals.

The Kerrigan case … and the presence of gays and gay causes in general … has provided no small amount of fodder for Catholic activism in Connecticut. The most recent example of this campaign is an odd but remarkably ardent campaign to prevent DCF — Connecticut’s child-care agency — to help gays (as reported by WTIC-AM radio in Hartford):

The state Department of Children and Families takes down part of its web site describing a program to train care givers on the needs of homosexual young people.

A conservative political group, and a Christian legal group had threatened to sue over the web pages for the Safe Harbor Project.

American Center for Law and Justice lawyer Vincent McCarthy said his organization sent a letter to the department, “demanding that the state of Connecticut DCF discontinue its endorsement of an alternative religious point of view that endorses the homosexual lifestyle.”

The web pages that were taken down included links to gay-accepting churches in Connecticut, including some in the United Church of Christ, and the Unitarian-Universalist Church

How dare the state of Connecticut offer gays a resource for acceptance!? Why, it cannot be tolerated!

Now … this story does not mention the Catholic Church or the state’s Catholic bishops as being part of this. And they may not be. However, there is a connection, which is referred to later in the article:

Family Institute of Connecticut director Peter Wolfgang said “This was the state stepping in to reeducate our children.

“This is the next big fight, and we will step in to fight it wherever we can, but this was such an obvious open and shut case because it had to do with the state taking a position on religion in clear violation of the first amendment,” Wolfgang said.

Peter Wolfgang is a prominent Connecticut Catholic, and his Family Institute dutifully aligns itself with the state’s Catholic bishops on all of their various crusades.* So it’s not unlikely that they played some part in this effort, even though it’s not overtly stated here.

At any rate, there appears to be no good reason for these religionazis to prevent the state from offering gays a positive resource they can rely on … except as part of their generalized homophobia and desire to repress gays in all ways and make them into second-class citizens. Way to go, guys. Keep up the gay-bashing. You continue to look like the intellectual Neanderthals you’ve shown yourselves to be for nearly 2,000 years.

* My choice of the word “crusade” here is deliberate and not metaphorical. The Catholic bishops in Connecticut are assuredly at war with gays. If they possessed the ability to raise armies against them — as some Popes such as Urban II and several Church councils sent armies to go to war with “the infidel” during the Middle Ages — I have no doubt they would be doing so, right now. That their “crusade” is one of propaganda, lawsuits and politicking, rather than a martial expedition, is just a reflection of modern reality … and a reminder as to why “separation of church and state” is so very important.

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