366 U.S. 420 (1961), 8, McGowan v. Maryland

Docket Nº:No. 8
Citation:366 U.S. 420, 81 S.Ct. 1101, 6 L.Ed.2d 393
Party Name:McGowan v. Maryland
Case Date:May 29, 1961
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 420

366 U.S. 420 (1961)

81 S.Ct. 1101, 6 L.Ed.2d 393

McGowan

v.

Maryland

No. 8

United States Supreme Court

May 29, 1961

Argued December 8, 1960

APPEAL FROM THE COURT OF APPEALS OF MARYLAND

Syllabus

Appellants, employees of a large department store on a highway in Anne Arundel County, Md., were convicted and fined in a Maryland State Court for selling on Sunday a loose-leaf binder, a can of floor wax, a stapler, staples and a toy, in violation of Md.Ann.Code, Art. 27, § 521, which generally prohibits the sale on Sunday of all merchandise except the retail sale of tobacco products, confectioneries, milk, bread, fruit, gasoline, oils, greases, drugs, medicines, newspapers and periodicals. Recent amendments now except from the prohibition the retail sale in Anne Arundel County of all foodstuffs, automobile and boating accessories, flowers, toilet goods, hospital supplies and souvenirs, and exempt entirely any retail establishment in that County which employs not more than one person other than the owner. There are many other Maryland laws which prohibit specific activities on Sundays or limit them to certain hours, places or conditions.

Held: Art. 27, § 521 does not violate the Equal Protection or Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or constitute a law respecting an establishment of religion, within the meaning of the First Amendment, which is made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 422-453.

1. Art. 27, § 521 does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 425-428.

(a) On the record in this case, it cannot be said that the classifications made by the statute are without rational and substantial relation to the objects of the legislation, so as to exceed the wide discretion permitted the States in enacting laws which affect some groups of citizens differently from others. Pp. 425-427.

(b) Provisions of the statute which permit only certain Anne Arundel County retailers to sell merchandise essential to, or customarily sold at, or incidental to, the operation of bathing beaches, amusement parks, etc., do not discriminate invidiously against retailers in other Maryland counties. P. 427.

(c) The Equal Protection Clause is not violated by Art . 27, § 509, which permits only certain merchants in Anne Arundel County (operators of bathing beaches, amusement parks, etc.)

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to sell merchandise customarily sold at such places while forbidding its sale by other vendors, such as appellants' employer. Pp. 427-428.

2. Art. 27, § 509, which exempts retail sales of "merchandise essential to, or customarily sold at, or incidental to, the operation of" bathing beaches, amusement parks, etc., is not so vague as to violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 428-429.

3. Art. 27, § 521 is not a law respecting an establishment of religion, within the meaning of the First Amendment. Pp. 429-453.

(a) Since appellants allege only economic injury to themselves, and do not allege any infringement of their own religious freedoms, they have no standing to raise the question whether the statute prohibits the free exercise of religion, contrary to the First Amendment. Pp. 429-430.

(b) Since appellants have suffered direct economic injury, allegedly due to the imposition on them of the tenets of the Christian religion, they have standing to complain that the statute is a law respecting an establishment of religion. Pp. 430-431.

(c) In the light of the evolution of our Sunday Closing Laws through the centuries, and of their more or less recent emphasis upon secular considerations, it is concluded that, as presently written and administered, most of them, at least, are of a secular, rather than of a religious, character, and that presently they bear no relationship to establishment of religion, as those words are used in the Constitution of the United States. Pp. 431-444.

(d) The present purpose and effect of most of our Sunday Closing Laws is to provide a uniform day of rest for all citizens, and the fact that this day is Sunday, a day of particular significance for the dominant Christian sects, does not bar the State from achieving its secular goals. Pp. 444-445.

(e) After engaging in the close scrutiny demanded of it when First Amendment liberties are at issue, this Court accepts the determination of the State Supreme Court that the present purpose and effect of the statute here involved is not to aid religion, but to set aside a day of rest and recreation. Pp. 445-449.

(f) This Court rejects appellants' contention that the State has other means at its disposal to accomplish its secular purpose that would not even remotely or incidentally give state aid to religion. Pp. 449-453.

220 Md. 117, 151 A.2d 156, affirmed.

Page 422

WARREN, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.

The issues in this case concern the constitutional validity of Maryland criminal statutes,1 commonly known as Sunday Closing Laws or Sunday Blue Laws. These statutes, with exceptions to be noted hereafter, generally proscribe all labor, business and other commercial activities on Sunday. The questions presented are whether the classifications within the statutes bring about a denial of equal protection of the law, whether the laws are so vague as to fail to give reasonable notice of the forbidden conduct and therefore violate due process, and whether the statutes are laws respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Appellants are seven employees of a large discount department store located on a highway in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. They were indicted for the Sunday sale of a three-ring loose-leaf binder, a can of floor wax, a stapler and staples, and a toy submarine in violation of Md.Ann.Code, Art. 27, § 521. Generally, this section prohibited, throughout the State, the Sunday sale of all merchandise except the retail sale of tobacco products, confectioneries, milk, bread, fruits, gasoline, oils, greases,

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drugs and medicines, and newspapers and periodicals. Recently amended, this section also now excepts from the general prohibition the retail sale in Anne Arundel County of all foodstuffs, automobile and boating accessories, flowers, toilet goods, hospital supplies and souvenirs. It now further provides that any retail establishment in Anne Arundel County which does not employ more than one person other than the owner may operate on Sunday.

Although appellants were indicted only under § 521, in order properly to consider several of the broad constitutional contentions, we must examine the whole body of Maryland Sunday laws. Several sections of the Maryland statutes are particularly relevant to evaluation of the issues presented. Section 492 of Md.Ann.Code, Art. 27, forbids all persons from doing any work or bodily labor on Sunday and forbids permitting children or servants to work on that day or to engage in fishing, hunting and unlawful pastimes or recreations. The section excepts all works of necessity and charity. Section 522 of Md.Ann.Code, Art. 27, disallows the opening or use of any dancing saloon, opera house, bowling alley or barber shop on Sunday. However, in addition to the exceptions noted above, Md.Ann.Code, Art. 27, § 509, exempts, for Anne Arundel County, the Sunday operation of any bathing beach, bathhouse, dancing saloon and amusement park, and activities incident thereto and retail sales of merchandise customarily sold at, or incidental to, the operation of the aforesaid occupations and businesses. Section 90 of Md.Ann.Code, Art. 2B, makes generally unlawful the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sunday. However, this section, and immediately succeeding ones, provide various immunities for the Sunday sale of different kinds of alcoholic beverages, at different hours during the day, by vendors holding different types of licenses, in different political divisions of the State -- particularly

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in Anne Arundel County. See Md.Ann.Code, Art. 2B, § 28(a).

The remaining statutory sections concern a myriad of exceptions for various counties, districts of counties, cities and towns throughout the State. Among the activities allowed in certain areas on Sunday are such sports as football, baseball, golf, tennis, bowling, croquet, basketball, lacrosse, soccer, hockey, swimming, softball, boating, fishing, skating, horseback riding, stock car racing and pool or billiards. Other immunized activities permitted in some regions of the State include group singing or playing of musical instruments; the exhibition of motion pictures; dancing; the operation of recreation centers, picnic grounds, swimming pools, skating rinks and miniature golf courses. The taking of oysters and the hunting or killing of game is generally forbidden, but shooting conducted by organized rod and gun clubs is permitted in one county. In some of the subdivisions within the State, the exempted Sunday activities are sanctioned throughout the day; in others, they may not commence until early afternoon or evening; in many, the activities may only be conducted during the afternoon and late in the evening. Certain localities do not permit the allowed Sunday activity to be carried on within one hundred yards of any church where religious services are being held. Local ordinances and regulations concerning certain limited activities supplement the State's statutory scheme. In Anne Arundel County, for example, slot machines, pinball machines and bingo may be played on Sunday.

Among other things, appellants contended at the trial that the Maryland statutes under which they were charged were contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment for the reasons stated at the outset of this...

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