Alcohol Prohibition and the (Lack of) Separation of Church and State

While half of the country is moving towards common-sense legalization of marijuana, others are pushing for criminalization of alcohol.

Legalization or criminalization?

It comes down to your basic world-view. Are criminal laws a method for some of us to force our morals and religion on the rest of society, or are the criminal laws designed to protect us from one another?

Should criminal laws be limited to victim-crimes, or should we put people in jail for victimless crimes that offend our sense of morals? We all have different ideas of what morality is, don’t we?

Should our criminal laws be limited to the values that we share as a society, or should our criminal laws reflect the values of religious leaders who know what is best for us?

What if Our Laws Were Dictated by Religion?

If you didn’t know, many of our country’s laws are dictated by, or heavily influenced by, religious law and religious values. Despite the Founder’s best efforts to separate church and state, it is ever-present.

Once upon a time, government was dominated by religion – if you lived in the Middle East or Northern Africa, your leaders governed by divine right and the law of the Koran, as interpreted by those leaders, was forced on you by your government.

If you lived in Europe, your leaders governed by divine right and Church law, as interpreted by the Pope, was forced on you by your government.

Reflecting on centuries of persecution, torture, and murder committed by governments in the name of religion, and keenly aware that many Americans came to the New World to escape that persecution, the Founders insisted that America’s government should be free of religious influence – insisting on an Amendment guaranteeing the separation of church and state before agreeing to sign the Constitution.

What would our country’s criminal laws look like if we lived up to that promise and repealed every law that was based in religion?

The Proposal to Expand Sunday Liquor Sales in SC

For example, a proposal to give 10 tourist-heavy counties the option to expand liquor sales on Sunday was met with opposition in the House by… religious leaders.

Representative John McCravy from Greenwood and the SC Baptist Convention Representative Joe Mack stepped in to make it clear that their goal is to ban alcohol, not to give the masses permission to buy alcohol on Sundays…

“Back when we were going from the mini-bottle to the big bottle, we were saying we don’t think you ought to drink out of either one of the bottles,” Mack told the House panel, adding he would prefer a bill to ban all alcohol sales in South Carolina. “The more liquor we serve, the more problems we’re going to have.”

Why should we not permit businesses to sell liquor on Sundays (in the short term, and ban alcohol in the long term)? According to McCravy and Mack:

  • It would create a slippery slope towards 24-hour alcohol sales;
  • It would result in a liquor store on every corner;
  • People “don’t want to see a liquor store open when they’re driving home from church;”
  • Alcohol creates more problems than opioids; and
  • It will make SC less family-friendly.

Sound reasonable? It’s a good thing the Baptist Church is represented in our state legislature… wait, what?

SC Baptist Convention Representative Joe Mack? What does that mean?

The Church Never Left the State

Despite the constitutional mandate of separation of church and state, the church is still in the state.

“SC Baptist Convention Representative” is a title that makes it sound like the Baptist Church has representation in our state legislature. Like the First Estate in pre-revolution France, they believe they should have a say and would probably like to have a vote as well.

But the Church does not have representation in our legislature. The people are represented in our legislature. As a society, we moved on from “rule by divine right” and Church law centuries ago. What the Baptist Church has is a lobbyist whose job is to insert Church policy whenever possible…

He works for the South Carolina Baptists’ Office of Public Policy, and his mission is “representing a biblical worldview — and, particularly, a Baptist voice — in legislative matters dealing with morality and spiritual issues.”

You know, things like alcohol prohibition. Ensuring that the government continues to legislate morality and a “biblical worldview” per the Baptist Church.

Why Do We Have Separation of Church and State?

One of the ideals that our country is founded upon is religious freedom.

History has proven that, left to its own devices, a government based in a particular religion will eventually ban all other religions – secular criminal laws based on our shared common ground will become religious law enforcing the morals of one religion. When the State and religion were one, people who held different beliefs were persecuted, jailed, torturedkilled, or exiled.

You don’t have to agree with the beliefs of other religions. You don’t have to go to someone else’s church or pray to someone else’s God. You are free to believe that your God is the only God and everyone else is going to Hell.

But, in the government of the United States of America, we must tolerate other people’s religious beliefs. Let people go to Hell – that’s every person’s choice. We are free to practice our own religion. We are free to bear witness and share our beliefs with everyone. But we are not free to force our beliefs on others through the vehicle of government. Not in the United States of America.

The Incremental Push for Alcohol Prohibition

There is a push by the religious element in our government towards alcohol prohibition. Yes, I understand that there are also non-religious people who feel strongly about drinking and driving laws. How soon we forget the results of Prohibition the last time we attempted it – corruptionorganized crime and violence.

MADD and other organizations lobbied for a .10 per-se DUI law nationwide and eventually got it with the help of coercion from the federal government. Then they began pushing for a .08 per-se DUI limit and, again, got it with the help of coercion from the federal government.

Now there is a nationwide push for a .05 DUI limit, and Utah is the first state to make the plunge… why?

According to NHTSA, 67% of alcohol-related fatalities involve drivers with blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or greater. A BAC of .05, for most people, does not impair their driving ability. A DUI limit of .05 does not make the highways safer. What does it accomplish? it is the final step before alcohol prohibition.

Stop legislating morality.

Stop the insanity of mass incarceration.

Read history.

Enforce the constitutional guarantee of the separation of church and state. Specifically, our state.

DUI Defense Lawyer in Charleston, SC

Grant B. Smaldone is a SC DUI defense lawyer based in Charleston, SC. If you have been charged with DUI, DUAC, or felony DUI in the Charleston, SC area, call SC DUI defense lawyer Grant B. Smaldone now at (843) 808-2100 or send an email to set up a free initial consultation today.