FARGO — The North Dakota Senate this week voted to repeal the state's long-standing "blue laws" that ban retailers from opening up before noon on Sundays, and the change is just the governor's signature away from going into effect.
Fargo businesses will likely welcome the added flexibility in their hours, though opinions vary among religious groups.
Business owners like Richard Early of Paradox Comics-N-Cards in Fargo, are excited for the new opportunities made available by the expected repeal of North Dakota's Sunday closing law. While he won't open on Sunday mornings right away, he says it will eventually help with some of his weekend events.
"We might have an eight-hour event that people travel out of town for that we want to start at 9 or 10 a.m.," Early said. "So this gives us the flexibility a couple of times a year to be able to do that."
Early predicts it will be a few months before most big and small stores adjust their hours. He thinks liquor stores will likely be the first to jump on Sunday mornings.
Regardless of how businesses decide to adjust, he says he's excited to finally have Sunday morning as a legal option.
"It's a, to me, very obvious decision, probably a positive financially, and (it) will make people very happy," he said.
Some leaders of the state's religious community are disappointed with the move, however.
Christopher Dodson, executive director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference, said the blue laws were "about more than respecting Sunday," in a statement. "It is about our values and way of life. It is about putting people before profit. The Sunday preservation law is part of what makes North Dakota great."
After the narrow 25-21 senate vote Tuesday, Dodson made this post online: "Whether or not they realize it, every senator voting today has benefited from the Sunday morning law."
But not all religious leaders have a negative view of the blue law's repeal.
Pastor Ryan Mutzenberger of First United Methodist in Fargo says he's not bothered by it, and it's just another sign that society is changing. Mutzenberger does not think repealing the blue law will have any impact on Sunday service attendance.
"I think even with the blue laws, folks were already making a choice," he said. "Are they going to worship or not? I don't think the blue laws being repealed will send folks immediately shopping because now they can."
"The church is doing what it can to reach folks in our community," Mutzenberger added. "We don't ever try to impose beliefs onto our folks. We don't force folks to attend worship."