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McGowan v. Maryland 

366 U.S. 420 (1961)

APPEAL FROM THE COURT OF APPEALS OF MARYLAND.

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Argued December 8, 1960. Decided May 29, 1961.

   Defendants, employees of a large department store on a highway in Anne Arundel County, Md., were convicted and fined in a Maryland State Court for selling on Sunday a loose-leaf binder, a can of floor wax, a stapler, staples and a toy, in violation of Md. Ann. Code, Art. 27, 521, which generally prohibits the sale on Sunday of all merchandise except the retail sale of tobacco products, confectioneries, milk, bread, fruit, gasoline, oils, greases, drugs, medicines, newspapers and periodicals. 

   Recent amendments now except from the prohibition the retail sale in Anne Arundel County of all foodstuffs, automobile and boating accessories, flowers, toilet goods, hospital supplies and souvenirs, and exempt entirely any retail establishment in that County which employs not more than one person other than the owner.

   There are many other Maryland laws which prohibit specific activities on Sundays or limit them to certain hours, places or conditions. 

   Held: Art. 27, 521 does not violate the Equal Protection or Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or constitute a law respecting an establishment of religion, within the meaning of the First Amendment, which is made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 422-453.

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.

   The issues in this case concern the constitutional validity of Maryland criminal statutes, 1 commonly known as Sunday Closing Laws or Sunday Blue Laws. These statutes, with exceptions to be noted hereafter, generally proscribe all labor, business and other commercial activities on Sunday. The questions presented are whether the classifications within the statutes bring about a denial of equal protection of the law, whether the laws are so vague as to fail to give reasonable notice of the forbidden conduct and therefore violate due process, and whether the statutes are laws respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

   Appellants are seven employees of a large discount department store located on a highway in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. They were indicted for the Sunday sale of a three-ring loose-leaf binder, a can of floor wax, a stapler and staples, and a toy submarine in violation of Md. Ann. Code. Art. 27, 521.

   Generally, this section prohibited, throughout the State, the Sunday sale of all merchandise except the retail sale of tobacco products, confectioneries, milk, bread, fruits, gasoline, oils, greases, [366 U.S. 420, 423] drugs and medicines, and newspapers and periodicals. Recently amended, this section also now excepts from the general prohibition the retail sale in Anne Arundel County of all foodstuffs, automobile and boating accessories, flowers, toilet goods, hospital supplies and souvenirs. It now further provides that any retail establishment in Anne Arundel County which does not employ more than one person other than the owner may operate on Sunday.

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