Blue laws aren’t South Carolina’s dumbest rules, but they’re close

Retailers like this Wal-Mart in Goose Creek won’t have any issues with limits on Sunday hours if a new ordinance is passed that suspends a state blue law originating from the Colonial era.

In South Carolina, it is illegal to operate a dance hall within a quarter-mile of a cemetery.

Really.

Apparently, at some point in our past there was a fear among lawmakers that all that evil rock and roll music might actually wake the dead.

It is, however, perfectly legal to fire a missile in this state, assuming you have permission from the aeronautics division of the Department of Commerce.

And even though the Confederate flag can no longer be displayed inside the Statehouse, it is specifically written into law that you can wear a battle flag into the building should you so choose.

Just in case you were having a wardrobe crisis.

It is also against the law for any circus to stay in one place more than 48 hours at a time — a provision that, if actually enforced, would significantly shorten the annual legislative session.

But perhaps South Carolina’s most famous stupid law is the one that prohibits businesses from operating for most of the day on Sundays. These blue laws date back to 1692, and were meant to give folks a break on the Sabbath.

This, of course, was before Ye Olde Home Depot opened for business.

There are some statutory exemptions to these blue laws. According to the South Carolina code, it is perfectly legal on Sunday morning to sell tobacco, light bulbs, souvenirs, as well as hosiery and undergarments.

You know — all the things you might need after a particularly eventful Saturday night.

Berkeley County Council recently gave initial approval to an ordinance repealing Sunday blue laws.

This ordinance, which is expected to pass council unanimously in March, will do away with one of the last vestiges of arcane colonial law that no one paid much attention to anyway.

Given the somewhat spirited nature of Berkeley County politics, you might expect that some people would have a problem with such a heathen proposal. But guess what — the sky has not fallen, and Moncks Corner has not yet turned to salt.

In fact, Berkeley County spokesman Michael Mule says there have been no complaints. Most calls the county has received are along the lines of “Welcome to the 21st Century.”

That, or “I didn’t know that was still a law.”

The purpose behind repealing blue laws in the county, aside from the fact that they are asinine in the modern world, is to promote business.

County Supervisor Bill Peagler came in promising a pro-business environment, and he started with three ideas. First, he wants to maintain the second-lowest tax rate in the state (behind Horry County). The council already took care of his second idea, which was to eliminate those controversial “transportation impact fees” — which were assessed on new homes and businesses to pay for infrastructure they would necessitate.

And third, he wanted to do away with blue laws.

Peagler, however, has yet to state a position on dancing near cemeteries.

Had anyone heeded Berkeley County blue laws, or the sheriff’s office had taken time to enforce them, it would have put local businesses at a distinct disadvantage.

Dorchester County doesn’t enforce them. And Charleston got rid of such arcane measures years ago — along with the prohibition against motorized vehicles on King Street.

Which they may bring back if the bike crowd gets their way.

The Legislature suspended blue laws for a year not too long ago, but then decided to leave the decision up to the counties. Many of them have already done away with them on their own. Berkeley is simply following suit.

The only problem here is that they had to do it at all. The Legislature — which has plenty to do, mind you — should probably appoint a committee to go through the state’s voluminous code of law and clean up some of these antiquities.

The law which technically says kindergartners can be arrested for playing Candyland is a good example.

Lawmakers have covered the tracks of their ancestors before. Like the one that required men to carry their rifles to church — you know, to shoot Indians.

Blue laws are just about as pertinent these days.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com