Phillip Tutor: On tap, on Sundays, in Calhoun County
Feb 21, 2013 | 4959 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan, we need you.

Only you can save us.

While the rest of Alabama is debating the logic of arming teachers, Calhoun County has become the latest battleground for allowing Sunday alcohol sales. The debate may get nasty.

Anniston is trying to get in on the act. Weaver, too.

If they succeed, it’s not far-fetched to think others — Oxford? Jacksonville? — will begin their own Sunday-sales campaigns.

Imagine the uproar.

And the potential profits.

That’s why we need Darrow and Bryan, the larger-than-life heavyweights who squared off in the famed Scopes monkey trial in 1925. The world watched as God-fearing fundamentalists opposed those who believe science and reason offer irrefutable proof. The little town of Dayton, Tenn., which tried a high school science teacher arrested for teaching evolution in public school, was invaded by a horde of advocates, scientists, pastors, zealots and reporters. Man’s very existence, if not his religious foundation, took the stand: Where did we come from? God or ape?

Darrow represented the evolutionists. Bryan defended the beliefs of fundamentalists. Bryan won, though the decision was later overturned on a technicality.

Given that, our little tussle — whether Sunday sales should be allowed or remain off-limits — should be a piece of cake.

Darrow, the champion of personal liberty, would represent advocates of Sunday sales. Bryan, the three-time presidential candidate (who delivered a speech in Anniston in 1895), would defend the rights of those who equate Sunday sales to rubber-stamping all things immoral on Christianity’s main day of worship.

It would be a show.

Problem is, it’s not 1925. It’s 2013, and the thought of selling alcohol — or, heaven forbid, drinking it — on a Sunday is no longer outright heresy deserving Middle Ages-style punishment. The restrictive blue laws of yesteryear are just that — laws born in times past that, in large part, conformed to local beliefs and mores. And time hasn’t stood still.

Whoa, hold on. Don’t miss the larger point, and don’t consider this an approval for Calhoun County to become Alabama’s next Sin City or Sodom and Gomorrah. Too much alcohol can kill, destroy families and ruin lives. In excess, alcohol is evil. (If you’ve had a family member drink himself to death, as I have, you understand.) Binge drinking is a major conundrum for young adults and college students. Ask any police officer: How often do you make DUI arrests? So, yes, let’s not fool ourselves and portray alcohol use as harmless fun.

But let’s also not hide our heads in the sand and believe booze-less Sundays either (a.) hold widespread influence today on people’s morality or (b.) keep people from drinking on Sundays. There’s a reason groceries sell so many six-packs on Saturday evenings. People who enjoy a mug of Sam Adams or a glass of Argentinean Malbec don’t decide to drop the drink because they can’t get it on Sunday.

They just wait until Monday.

The inevitable heathens vs. God-fearing believers crusade is already under way. It’s also a political nightmare, which is why state Rep. Barbara Boyd, D-Anniston, said this when asked by a Star reporter if she’d support a bill that would allow the City Council to vote on Sunday sales: “You’re going to get me in trouble.” Yet, Boyd said she supported giving the council the choice.

Good for her.

Trust me, none of this is meant as a shot at those who wholeheartedly believe Sunday should be alcohol-free. Fair-minded people of faith shouldn’t have their values verbally abused simply because of differences of opinion. It’s a debate, not a condemnation.

Nonetheless, Calhoun County’s cities need to join the 21st century. Alcohol-free Sundays are bad for business and bad for the area’s ability to market itself as a vibrant, visitor-friendly place. Critics should consider Alabama towns such as Northport, Tuscaloosa and Selma — which have recently legalized Sunday sales — and see that their Sunday afternoons aren’t weekly conventions of drunken hordes. Those cities are still standing.

So, too, is Cullman — the publicized poster city for Alabama prohibition — which last year hosted its heralded Oktoberfest with real beer. And, on a related note, I suspect that if the state Legislature legalizes home brewing — we’re one of only two states where it’s illegal — that Alabama won’t become one giant pub with a brewery in every kitchen.

If you don’t want to drink on Sunday, then don’t.

But there’s no reason for Calhoun County’s cities not to embrace the obvious fiscal, developmental and marketing advantages of allowing alcohol sales on Sundays.

If they don’t, as Darrow might say, they’re choosing to remain stuck in the previous century.

In other words, they’re left behind.

Phillip Tutor — ptutor@annistonstar.com — is The Star’s commentary editor. Follow him at Twitter.com/PTutor_Star.
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