October 17, 1995 in Nation/World

Court: Christmas Is Secular, So Booze Ban Is Constitutional

Associated Press

A Florida county’s ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages on Christmas Day each year was left intact by the Supreme Court on Monday.

The justices, without comment, turned down arguments that the Clay County ban violates the constitutionally required separation of church and state.

The challenge had been pressed by 10 businesses that sell alcoholic beverages - by the bottle, can or glass.

Lawyers for the businesses said the 16-year-old ordinance “has the purpose and effect of endorsing sectarian Christian practices.”

The legal challenge relied heavily on a 1981 ruling in which the Connecticut Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional a law in its state that had prohibited sale of alcohol on Good Friday.

A Florida judge upheld the Clay County ordinance after drawing a distinction between Christmas as a celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth and Good Friday as a commemoration of his death.

“There is substantial reason … to consider Christmas Day today as largely a secular (nonreligious) holiday … but to consider Good Friday as primarily if not entirely sectarian in nature with no secular tradition,” the judge said.

He said the county could have several valid, nonreligious reasons for imposing such a ban, such as traffic safety and curtailing domestic violence.

In the appeal acted on Monday, lawyers for the 10 businesses argued that the state courts wrongly concluded that Christmas is more secular than Good Friday and Easter, and invoked the Easter bunny, chocolate bunnies and Easter egg hunts to illustrate their point.

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