Press-Republican

May 10, 2013

Editorial: Leave religion out of decisions

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Press-Republican

---- — It is surprising that any public official would believe it is prudent to base a decision about a proposed law on a particular religion. But that is just what happened this week.

The Essex County Board of Supervisors was meeting Monday and, among other issues, the town supervisors who make up that body were trying to decide whether to roll back the time that alcohol sales must be cut off.

Since 2005, the county has allowed alcohol sales at bars and restaurants to continue until 4 a.m. An advocate involved in the issue of alcohol abuse suggested the supervisors move the time back to 2 a.m.

The point was made by several public officials that not much good happens in a community as a result of people drinking between 2 and 4 a.m. And the Press-Republican pointed out in an editorial that Essex County was among just a few rural counties that allow bars to be open until 4. But we also noted that the county is in a unique situation in hosting a world-class tourist resort: Lake Placid.

Concerns were raised by some Lake Placid businesses, so the supervisors compromised and decided to move closing time to 3 a.m.

All fine, except for a suggestion from Schroon Supervisor Michael Marnell, who said he thinks bars should be closed entirely on Christmas Eve and Good Friday, both connected with Christian holidays.

Can you imagine someone around here suggesting that bars be forced to close on a Jewish or Muslim day of commemoration? Few locals would think that is fair to the business owners or customers, would they?

Just because the majority of people in this area who follow a religion are Christian doesn’t mean officials can force everyone to “mark” their religious holiday by adhering to a publicly imposed regulation.

Even strict followers of the Christian religion might like to think they can go out for a drink with family members on Christmas Eve.

If churches want to encourage followers not to drink on Good Friday, Christmas Eve or any other revered day, that is certainly well within their rights. But we are sure even church leaders wouldn’t demand that all businesses be banned from handing anyone a glass of wine on those days.

Fortunately, the other Essex County supervisors were showing better judgment Monday. Marnell’s proposed resolution didn’t get a second.

As Moriah Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava wisely pointed out to Marnell: “You’re walking a thin line when you tell bar owners you have to close on one religious holiday (but) you can stay open on another religious holiday.” Elizabethtown Supervisor Margaret Bartley also objected to the idea.

Marnell hasn’t exactly been rolling out proposals for the county to consider during his 17 months in office. It’s too bad his first proposed resolution was so ill-advised.