The Warren Court (1953–69)

Freedom of Religion

What did the Warren Court say about Sunday closing laws?

The Warren Court upheld the constitutionality of Sunday closing laws or Sunday blue laws in a pair of 1961 decisions: McGowan v. Maryland and Braunfeld v. Brown. In McGowan, the Court determined that such a law did not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by preferring the Christian Sabbath day of Sunday. Instead, the Court reasoned that the closing laws had a valid, secular purpose—to provide a day of rest for everyone in the community. In Braunfeld, the Court ruled that a closing law did not violate the free-exercise rights of Orthodox Jews who shut their businesses down on their Sabbath day of Saturday and then were forced to shut down Sundays as well. Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote that the closing law “does not make unlawful any religious practices” and “simply regulates a secular activity.”


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