If you had asked me to write the plotline for a council meeting in a small southern town, there is no way I would have invented anything as riveting as the actual Goldsboro city council meeting.
“My favorite time of the night: public comment period,” swashbuckling Mayor Chuck Allen boomed as onlookers stirred in their seats. He had barely finished his sentence before an elderly man swaggered to the podium, shouting his name and address.
“How are you, sir?” Council Member Mark Stevens greeted him warmly.
“I’m doing wonderful! Everybody’s bright-eyed and enjoying the meeting,” hollered the man. He planted his entire body in an immobile slouch and made his position crystal clear.
“In behalf of all the fine, clean, Christian people who live in Goldsboro and wanna keep this a safe and clean city,” he thundered, “we the clean, Christian people do hereby OPPOSE Sabbath morning sale of alcoholic beverages.”
Heads nodded in the crowd.
“It’s a threat to the church. It’s a disgrace to the community. Thank you for your vote against it.”
In a first for me, he then commenced his own round of applause, which citizens and a few council members joined as he retreated from the microphone.
A petite woman with a shock of white hair took his place. “I attend Adamsville Baptist Church. Serving alcohol at 10 a.m. on Sunday will be a bad influence on the young people.”
She frowned deeply as if looking into the eyes of Satan himself. “If we have our people setting in the bar on a Sunday morning, they are missing an opportunity to attend one of our many churches.”
I should mention, the council was voting today on the “Brunch Bill” to allow alcohol sales starting at 10 a.m. on Sundays. And if you couldn’t tell, there was a teensy bit of opposition from a very specific demographic:
“You have one person–one person ONLY–that is looking at you HARDER than we are,” bellowed a graying church deacon, pointing skyward. “It’s the man upstairs.”
“Amens” flitted across the room. But the president of the downtown merchants’ association strolled to the podium to argue on behalf of the local heretics.
“Seventy-one percent of downtown merchants are in favor of the Brunch Bill. The merchants feel the bill will bring new businesses to Goldsboro,” he countered, rattling off all of the neighboring cities and counties that had Sunday morning sales.
A hostile silence, broken by a single boo, greeted the heathen as he walked off.
Another local bar owner, clad in a neat button-up shirt and a tidy haircut, stared at the mayor and asked a simple question.
“We have alcohol sales starting at 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday. So what’s the difference with Sunday?”
Mayor Allen eyed the gallery as various parishioners muttered, “it’s the lord’s day.”
“The LORD’S day,” the man repeated for emphasis. “THAT’S the difference. So now this is an issue of religion.”
“There are many sabbaths,” this barkeep-cum-professor lectured the council. “Sunday is not the ONLY sabbath. We’re making laws based on religion. I would refer you to the First Amendment.”
Having heard both sides for almost a half hour, Mayor Allen called for the vote. “All those in favor, raise your right hand.”
He and three council members voted aye. The remaining three voted no. The teetotalers had lost.
Council Member Stevens vented in frustration. “For those who were disappointed in this situation, you know…keep praying. The lord will keep you safe.”