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North Dakota mulls lifting its ban on Sunday morning shopping

Stores currently aren't allowed to open until noon.
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North Dakota is once again considering whether to lift its long-running ban on Sunday morning shopping.

Laws restricting the sale of a number of products before noon on Sundays – including clothing, footwear, appliances, electronics and tools – have existed since North Dakota became a state in 1889.

The spirit behind the law was to ensure shopping didn't compete with a visit to church on Sunday mornings, and any retailer that falls foul of the rule are guilty of a Class B misdemeanor.

But state lawmakers are now taking up another attempt to repeal the rule, which the Grand Forks Herald reports follows a similar attempt that was narrowly defeated two years ago.

As the newspaper notes, opinion still seems to be split between lawmakers who want to continue protecting the Sabbath and freedom to practice religion, and those who feel businesses should make their own choices about when they open and close.

Fargo is proving to be one of the battlegrounds, as city retailers lose shoppers on Sunday mornings to nearby Moorhead, Minnesota, where retailers have more relaxed rules about Sunday morning.

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The legislation was introduced last month by Rep. Shannon Roers Jones (R-Fargo), with the Bismarck Tribune reporting that ND Gov. Doug Burgum is in favor of repealing the closing law.

But it still faces opposition from church groups, including the North Dakota Catholic Conference, whose Executive Director Christopher Dodson told the Tribune: "It really comes down to if you put individualism and profit over families and communities."

"I think … many North Dakotans like the way of life in North Dakota and they want to preserve that."

Supporters however have pointed to the relaxing of rules in recent years for other Sunday morning business, including allowing restaurants and bars to serve alcohol as early as 11 a.m. thanks to a law passed in 2015.

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