Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The absurdity of Easter liquor laws

Every Easter, we have the usual argument about Easter trading. The current law is an absurd relic of Christian oppression, aimed at forcing people to celebrate a particular religion by the simple expedient of giving them nothing else to do, and it has no place in a modern, secular society. But every attempt at changing it - and there have been eight in the last 15 years - has failed, largely because the MPs pushing them are too stupid to include the obvious and popular compromise measure of making Easter Sunday a public holiday. Sadly, this year's example, promoted by Tau Henare, seems to be no different.

Meanwhile, while attention is focused on shop trading hours, equally absurd Easter laws get ignored. Broadcasters can't show ads over Easter, presumably because it might offend the Easter Bunny or something. I virulently hate TV advertising, to the extent that I now download all my TV simply to avoid it, but the idea of banning it out of "respect" for someone's imaginary friend is absolutely ludicrous, and I can't imagine it passing a BORA analysis (promoting a particular faith isn't even a legitimate public purpose, let alone an important one). And then there's the liquor laws... liquor stores can't trade over Easter, and you can't buy a drink in a hotel or tavern unless you're there for the purposes of a meal (which on Sunday meant that I couldn't even buy a coffee at a particular establishment in Wellington, unless I wanted to sit down for a meal I didn't want. No, a bowl of chips wouldn't be enough to satisfy their liquor licence. Fortunately, there were other establishments not so constrained...) Again, its the Christians being the fun police: the weekend is important to them, so we all have to suffer. And again, it has no place in a modern, secular, liberal society. If Christians want to not drink over Easter, that's fine. But the idea that the rest of us should be forced not to drink (or in my case, buy coffee) fails Mill's Law. It is simply the tyranny of the majority - or the tyranny of a past majority - in action.

You'd think that with the changes in our society, these laws would gradually be working their way off the statute book as the law was updated. You'd be wrong. The government's new Alcohol Reform Bill reiterates the ban on Easter liquor sales. Despite the fact that we now live in a secular country, we're still forced to suffer under religious laws.