State v. Fass

Decision Date06 November 1961
Docket NumberNo. A--14,A--14
Citation36 N.J. 102,175 A.2d 193
PartiesSTATE of New Jersey, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Dave FASS, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtNew Jersey Supreme Court

Joseph L. Freiman, Union City, for defendant-appellant.

Robert S. Miller, Deputy Atty.Gen., for plaintiff-respondent (David D. Furman, Atty.Gen., attorney).

The opinion of the court was delivered by


Defendant Dave Fass operates a store in West New York, New Jersey, for the retail sale of floor coverings. He was charged in the Municipal Court with making a sale of merchandise there on Sunday in violation of L.1959, Chapter 119, §§ 1 and 3, N.J.S. 2A:171--5.8 and 5.10, N.J.S.A. He admitted the sale but defended on the ground that the statute is invalid because it interferes with the free exercise of his religion in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (which is applicable to the states by virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment of that Constitution), and of Article I, paragraphs 4 and 5, of the New Jersey Constitution. In addition, he claimed to be immune from prosecution under N.J.S. 2A:171--4, N.J.S.A. as a Sabbatarian. He was convicted in the Municipal Court and the judgment was affirmed on a trial De novo in the County Court. His subsequent appeal was certified by this court before argument in the Superior Court, Appellate Division. After the matter was presented to us the United States Supreme Court on June 19, 1961 decided a series of cases involving attacks upon the constitutionality of the Sunday closing laws of Maryland, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. All of the various claims of invalidity were rejected, including the contentions that such statutes violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the religious freedom guaranty of the First Amendment of the Federal Constitution. See McGowan v. State of Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 81 S.Ct. 1153, 1218, 6 L.Ed.2d 393; Gallagher v. Crown Kosher Super Market, 366 U.S. 617, 81 S.Ct. 1122, 6 L.Ed.2d 536; Two Guys from Harrison-Allentown, Inc. v. McGinley, 366 U.S. 582, 81 S.Ct. 1135, 6 L.Ed.2d 551; Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U.S. 599, 81 S.Ct. 1144, 6 L.Ed.2d 563. In the light of those determinations, we called for additional briefs and reargument.

Section 1 of Chapter 119, L.1959, provides:

'On the first day of the week, commonly known and designated as Sunday, it shall be unlawful for any person whether it be at retail, wholesale or by auction, To sell, attempt to sell or offer to sell or to engage in the business of selling, as hereinafter defined, clothing or wearing apparel, building and lumber supply materials, furniture, home or business or office furnishings, household, business or office appliances, except as works of necessity and charity or As isolated transactions not in the usual course of the business of the participants.' (Emphasis added.)

Section 3 says that 'sell' means

'* * * to enter into an agreement whereby the seller transfers ownership or property in the goods or an interest in the goods to the purchaser for a consideration, * * *.'

'Offer to sell' means

'* * * the acceptance of bids or proposals for the purchase of goods at a future date or the attempt to induce a sale as hereinabove defined, or the attempt to induce an immediate transfer of any such merchandise, But not to include advertising or display of any such merchandise which merchandise is not available for purchase on Sunday.' (Emphasis added.)

'Engage in selling' means

'* * * the attempt to sell or to induce an immediate or future transfer of any such merchandise by describing, explaining, extolling or identifying any such merchandise while the seller is in personal contact with the potential purchaser.'

The constitutionality of the statute was sustained by a majority of this court in Two Guys from Harrison v. Furman, 32 N.J. 199, 160 A.2d 265 (1960), against charges that it imposed discrimination upon and denied equal protection of the law to persons who were engaged in the business of selling articles in the five forbidden categories. Also rejected was the contention that the legislation transgressed the prohibition of the Federal and State Constitutions against the enactment of laws 'respecting an establishment of religion' or 'of one religious sect in preference to another.' First Amendment, United States Constitution; Article I, par. 4, New Jersey Constitution. That decision must be regarded as having established the present law of this State. Reserved by the opinion, however, was the question whether the ban on Sunday sales in the listed classes of commodities impinged 'upon the freedom of those who observe religiously the seventh day of the week.' The issue was not presented and no view was expressed on it. 32 N.J., at pp. 216, 217, 160 A.2d at p. 274. This case brings it to us for the first time.

Fass is a votary of the Orthodox Jewish faith. The tenets of his religion require him to keep, and he does keep, the seventh day of the week as his Sabbath. On that day he abstains from his usual business or occupation and devotes himself exclusively to religious worship. His Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday (at which time he closes his store) and ends at sunset on Saturday. Thus, his store is closed two days each week: on Saturday, because of the spiritual proscriptions of his religious orthodoxy, and on Sunday, through compulsion of secular law, L.1959, Chapter 119, while his business competitors of other faiths, or of no faith at all, are prohibited from engaging in traffic in the five classes of goods only on one day of the week, i.e., Sunday. The resulting additional economic loss imposed on him by the statute makes the practice of his religion more burdensome and therefore, he claims, constitutes an unconstitutional hindrance to its free exercise.

The precise question was considered in Braunfeld v. Brown and McGowan v. State of Maryland, supra, and disposed of adversely to the defendant by a majority of the members of the United States Supreme Court. In Braunfeld, Chief Justice Warren declared that the Pennsylvania Sunday Closing Law (18 P.S. § 4699.10) was simply a regulation of secular and not of religious activity, designed by the legislative branch of the government to secure in each week a common day of rest, relaxation and recreation for all persons. 366 U.S. at p. 604, 81 S.Ct. at p. 147, 6 L.Ed.2d at p. 567. In answer to the argument that the basic purpose would be served by selection of some day other than Sunday or by permitting each person to decide upon his own day of abstinence from work, both the Chief Justice, and Justice Frankfurter in his exhaustive concurring opinion, said a state might reasonably conclude that the suggested alternatives would not provide for the desired general cessation of activity or the sought for atmosphere of rest and tranquility; that they would provide only periodic physical rest, not the atmosphere of entire community repose which Sunday has traditionally brought. McGowan v. State of Maryland, supra, 366 U.S. at pp. 449, 505, 506, 81 S.Ct. at pp. 1117, 1178, 1179, 6 L.Ed.2d at pp. 413, 414, 444, 445; see also Two Guys from Harrison v. Furman, supra, 32 N.J. at pp. 215, 216, 160 A 2d at p. 273.

In McGowan and Braunfeld it was further contended that in view of the indirect economic burden cast on Sabbatarians, conformity with the guaranty of freedom of religion as to them could be achieved only by legislative grant of an exemption from the restrictions of Sunday closing statutes. Here again, the court ruled adversely, holding that such a qualification was a matter of legislative judgment and not necessary to constitutional regularity. In Braunfeld v. Brown Chief Justice Warren said:

'However, appellants advance yet another means at the State's disposal which they would find unobjectionable. They contend that the State should cut an exception from the Sunday labor proscription for those people who because of religious conviction, observe a day of rest other than Sunday. By such regulation, appellants contend, the economic disadvantages imposed by the present system would be removed and the State's interest in having all people rest one day would be satisfied.

A number of States provide such an exemption, and this may well be the wiser solution to the problem. But our concern is not with the wisdom of legislation but with its constitutional limitation. Thus, reason and experience teach that to permit the exemption might well undermine the State's goal of providing a day that, as best possible, eliminates the atmosphere of commercial noise and activity.' 366 U.S. at page 608, 81 S.Ct. at page 1148, 6 L.Ed.2d, at p. 569.

Justice Frankfurter reached the same conclusion on this problem. He said:

'In urging that an exception in favor of those who observe some other day as sacred would not defeat the ends of Sunday legislation, and therefore that failure to provide such an exception is an unnecessary--hence an unconstitutional--burden on Sabbatarians, the Gallagher appellees and Braunfeld appellants point to such exceptions in twenty-one of the thirty-four jurisdictions which have statutes banning labor or employment or the selling of goods on Sunday. Actually, in less than half of these twenty-one States does the exemption extend to sales activity as well as to labor. There are tenable reasons why a legislature might choose not to make such an exception. To whatever extent persons who come within the exception are present in a community, their activity would disturb the atmosphere of general repose and reintroduce into Sunday the business tempos of the week. Administration would be more difficult, with violations less evident and, in effect, two or more days to police instead of one. If it is assumed that the retail demand for consumer items is approximately equivalent on Saturday and on Sunday, the Sabbatarian, in proportion as he is less numerous, and hence the...

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6 cases
  • Right to Choose v. Byrne
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • August 18, 1982
    ...however, that the State need not facilitate free exercise. State v. Fass, 62 N.J.Super. 265, 162 A.2d 608 (Cty.Ct.1960), aff'd, 36 N.J. 102, 175 A.2d 193 (1961), appeal dismissed and cert. denied, 370 U.S. 47, 82 S.Ct. 1167, 8 L.Ed.2d 398 (1962). The constitutional right to the free exercis......
  • Darnell v. Moorestown Tp.
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • March 16, 1979
    ...goal, as opposed to an attempt at direct regulation. Cf. State v. Fass, 62 N.J.Super. 265, 162 A.2d 608 (Cty.Ct.1960), aff'd 36 N.J. 102, 175 A.2d 193 (1961), app. dism. 370 U.S. 47, 82 S.Ct. 1167, 8 L.Ed.2d 398 Reynolds v. Dukakis, 441 F.Supp. 646 (D.Mass.1977), cited by petitioner, is ina......
  • Epstein v. State
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • May 12, 1998
    ...of the laws or effect a discrimination because of religious principles, contrary to N.J. Const. art. I, p 5. See State v. Fass, 36 N.J. 102, 109, 175 A.2d 193 (1961) (Sunday closing law does not violate equal protection clause), cert. denied, 370 U.S. 47, 82 S.Ct. 1167, 8 L. Ed.2d 398 (1962......
  • State v. Monteleone, A--19
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • November 6, 1961 them. For that reason, I join the majority opinion in this case. SCHETTINO, J. (dissenting). As stated in my dissent in State v. Fass, 36 N.J. 102, 175 A.2d 193, section 1 of L.1959, c. 119, N.J.S. 2A:171--5.8, N.J.S.A., is violative of the equal protection clause of the Federal ...
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