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Pinke: Businesses should decide their Sunday hours, not government

Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Strasburg, N.D. Katie Pinke / Forum News Service1 / 2
Katie Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek magazine.2 / 2

Do you shop on Sunday mornings? I don’t. In fact, my home state of North Dakota is the only state with a law that doesn’t allow you to shop on Sunday mornings — nor does it allow business owners the choice to be open for businesses. Once the clock strikes noon, doors can open, but that’s only been allowed since 1991. Before then, the closed sign didn’t change on Sundays. Maybe it sounds idyllic to you because everyone goes to church on Sunday mornings. But that’s not reality.

Several North Dakota legislators have introduced House Bill 1097 into the 66th legislative session to repeal the last standing “blue law” on the books. This past Wednesday, the bill went to legislative committee where it was argued but not voted on.

As North Dakotans, we pride ourselves on limited government in this deeply red state — but we dictate when businesses can or cannot be open.

The essence behind the law is that everyone should go to church on Sunday morning and businesses should be closed to allow that freedom. The reality is it doesn’t work that way. In fact, some churches have evolved and now meet in the evenings, even during the week, to reach more individuals and families.

In this day and age, businesses should have the right and freedom to be open anytime, any day of the week and still allow their employees time to attend religious services. Additionally, honoring — or not honoring — the Sabbath on Sunday is not the government’s job. That’s between God and me and God and anyone else, not between my government, God and me.

As a rural, North Dakota small business owner, I believe it is my right to be open on a Sunday morning if I so choose. It could be beneficial for customers who can’t visit during our Monday through Friday hours. But our retail lumberyard business isn’t open at all on weekends. Other than private appointments with customers for our building services, we eliminated Saturday hours in 2008 and have never had Sunday hours. All private businesses should have the freedom to choose when they’re open for business.

In our small town, our business is still closed over the noon hour for a lunch break. We close extra days around Christmas for our employees to have more time to celebrate with their families. It’s old fashioned. It’s not the norm. We probably lose some business because of it. But it’s a risk we take to provide the best work environment possible for our employees, and it aligns with our values as business owners.

My husband’s and my values, along with our business acumen, can determine what’s best for our business, customers, and employees.

I can separate my government from my faith. My Christian faith does impact how I run a business, but that’s a business owner's choice.

If you’re a North Dakotan, contact your legislators and ask for their support and a “yes” vote to repeal North Dakota blue laws. Don’t know how to contact them? It’s easy — click on “Contact my legislators” at www.legis.nd.gov.

Your legislators are your elected voice. They represent you, the taxpayer. Speak out and share your voice. It will take you less than five minutes. Let businesses decide their own hours of operation. Repeal the North Dakota blue law.

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