Federal Sabbath Laws

By Graham Glover


We are a tired nation. We work too much. We don’t vacation enough. We are poorly disciplined in taking time off from our jobs, our studies, and a variety of social activities. It seems as though we sleep less and less, and the notion of a mid-afternoon siesta is almost laughable. If we complain about being tired, we are called lazy. If we aren’t giving 100% every day, we are told that we will never be the best at our craft. Hard work – more work – drives our society and our economic system.

That being said, it’s time for Americans to rest.

The problem is how to enforce rest. We are, despite the claims of some, a capitalist nation, that isn’t overly keen on shorter work days, longer vacation time, mandatory maternity/paternity leave, more liberal policies toward sick time, etc. Most of us work 40+ hours a week, with 2 weeks’ vacation per year. For many, longer hours and less vacation are the norm. Our work-driven society seems hardly conducive to rest. If one job doesn’t pay the bills, we get another. If one spouse can’t afford to stay home with the kids, they find work, only to put their children in daycare – sometimes for 12 hours a day. Hard work, which almost always means more work, is the driving force behind much of what we do in America and I can’t envision many scenarios where this ethic changes. Except one: the institution of federal Sabbath laws. If changing the amount of hours we work isn’t possible, then it’s time to teach our nation to work smarter by resting more. It’s time to shut things down on Sunday.


That means no businesses are open on Sunday. No restaurants. No grocery stores. No shopping malls. Nothing. Sunday is a day to rest. And the best way to rest is to literally stop working. That means your leisure activities that involve things being open may not be possible on Sunday. Others can’t rest if businesses remain open. It’s time to spend time with your family, your friends, your neighbors. It’s time to stop working and ideally, disconnect from your job, your school, and yes…even your computer, smart-phone, and TV. This is one of the things the Sabbath is about – rest.

We’ll obviously leave some essential services open on a limited basis: hospitals, law enforcement, etc. Perhaps even a gas station or two, but by and large, Sunday will become a day of mandatory rest. For those that must work on Sunday (to include clergy), another day of the week will become their Sabbath day of rest. No exceptions.


Think this idea is ridiculous? Offer an alternative. Think we Americans don’t work hard enough? Show me a nation that does. Think we don’t need more rest? Explain why not. Think these laws would be a tacit endorsement of religion by the government, and a violation of the establishment clause? Tell me how the federal government isn’t involving itself in religious affairs already.

I’m all for hard work. I’m all about rewarding those who put forth the most effort. Federal Sabbath laws are not a call against those whose work ethic has given them worldly riches and wisdom. Indeed, I think it is quite the opposite. I want more Americans to achieve their vocational goals. I want better educated citizens. I want more productive workers. I want increased financial stability. But to achieve these goals we Americans must rest. We must stop thinking longer hours and more days of work is the key to achieving what we want. We must take time away from these things in order to get better and more productive at them. And unless we force our nation’s hand on this issue, I don’t see how we ever learn to do so.