The debate was long winded, but ultimately the vote wasn’t close. The Sunday opening or “blue laws” bill, HB1097 introduced by Rep. Shannon Roers Jones (R-Fargo), passed in the state House today.
While the outcome was the right one, the debate had a lot of face palm moments.
Perhaps the worst was Rep. Sebastian Ertelt, a Republican, lecturing the House floor on god’s law and suggesting those who wanted to end the Sunday closing law are not pursuing liberty. “Human law is not above god’s law,” he said. “God’s law supersedes all of it.”
“There’s the argument about the role of government. What we hear is ‘I want to decide what’s best for me’,” he continued. “What they are really seeking when we are saying these things is not liberty. Liberty is the pursuit of what is good. You are not pursuing good if you are against god’s law.”
The problem of this line of reasoning, of course, is whose god are we talking about? Rep. Ertelt’s? The Muslim god? The Hindu god? What if there is no god?
Beyond that, supposing for a moment that Ertelt is right, how do we formulate the concept of religious liberty? If all of man’s laws must be subservient to the laws of Rep. Ertelt’s god, how do we promote laws that protect beliefs and activities Rep. Ertelt’s god wouldn’t like?
Christians don’t want the law to tell them they have to bake a cake for a gay wedding. I understand that. I’m with them on that front. But how can Christians then turn around and tell businesses they have to be subservient to their god’s laws?
Seems hypocritical, doesn’t it?
Prior to that, Rep. Jeff Hoverson (R-Minot) told his fellow lawmakers that the law shouldn’t be changed because it’s what god designed. “That’s not even a religious statement,” he added.
He then made a strange reference to Ghostbusters. “In that move they’re going after the ghosts and there’s a marshmallow monster,” he said. “When the marshmallow monster steps on the church Bill Murray’s character says ‘Nobody messes with a church in my town’.” This, according to Hoversen, is the attitude he’d like to see lawmakers adopt when it comes to religion, I guess?
He also said North Dakota should work on “attracting church goers who appreciate the Sunday law.”
Here’s the full video of the debate:
The final vote was 56-35 with three absent and not voting.
The absent members of the House became an issue during the floor debate. During his speech Rep. Hoverson asked the bill carrier, Rep. Dan Ruby (R-Minot), why the vote on the bill had been moved up. His question was ruled out of order by the Speaker of the House, but later in the debate Majority Leader Chet Pollert rose to say that there were expected to be more absent lawmakers tomorrow than today. Since only three lawmakers were gone today, they wanted to get this hot-button vote in.