By Hunter Hines
Christian Action League
March 15, 2019
An in-depth study performed by the Program Evaluation Division (PED) of the North Carolina General Assembly, which was released last month, did not recommend the privatization of liquor sales. Instead, the report recommended that state lawmakers modernize the current system of liquor sales. Those recommendations included: eliminating the purchase-transportation permit for liquor, monitoring more carefully the selection of the ABC warehouse contract, giving local ABC boards more flexibility to charge delivery fees and serve special order customers, and merging ABC boards located in the same county, offering in-store liquor tastings, as well as opening ABC stores on Sundays.
Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said:
“It’s so easy to underestimate the critical nature of responsible alcohol policies to our culture. We do it all the time. Think about it. Boeing Max Jet Airliners are grounded in this country because one of them crashed and killed 157 people. The grounding was the right thing to do. Still, alcohol abuse is the third leading cause of preventable death in America, 88,000 people die every year, 241 people die every day, amounting to 2.5 million years of potential life lost. And most of us hardly bat an eye about whether our state and federal alcohol policies exacerbate the problem or work to lessen it.”
Creech continued, “I think North Carolinians, especially citizen Christians, need to be concerned with the negative impact likely to result from merging local ABC boards, liquor tastings in an ABC store, and the opening of ABC stores on Sundays – especially the later.”
HB 91 – ABC Laws Modernization/PED Study, is the legislation that reflects the recommendations from the PED study. This bill will be considered this coming Tuesday, March 19th, in the House ABC Committee.
Below is the contact information for all the members of that committee. Please contact these lawmakers and urge them to amend out of the legislation, the merging of ABC stores, liquor tastings in an ABC store, and the opening of ABC stores on Sunday. The League especially urges its supporting churches, and like-minded Christian friends, to emphasize that you do not want ABC stores opening in your community on Sundays.
Please email all of the House ABC committee members listed. If one of the members of the committee is your Representative in the NC House (click here if you don’t know who represents you in the NC House and follow the simple prompts), the League encourages you to email and then follow-up with a phone call. It will take a few minutes to do this, but it’s very important.
Please contact the members of the House ABC Committee before their meeting on Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. There are talking points you may draw from below their contact information.
Contact Information for ABC Committee Members
Click here to email the Entire ABC Committee or use the list below to email each of them individually.
Jamie Boles (chair)
Chuck McGrady (chair)
Susan Fisher (v chair)
Jon Hardister (v chair)
You May Draw from these Talking Points
Regarding Sunday Sales
ABC stores are authorized to be open Monday through Saturday; 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. This provides ample access to both retail consumers and mixed beverage permittees. If there are Sunday sales, some current consumers would shift their purchases to Sundays. And with overhead and operational costs, any additional sales would not result in significant additional distributions to local governments.
Research demonstrates increasing days of sale by allowing previously banned alcohol sales on either Saturdays or Sundays exacerbate the problems of excessive alcohol consumption, and, therefore, results in greater alcohol-related harms.
The CDC reports that 80% of American adults either do not drink alcohol or have 3 or fewer drinks per week, 15% are moderate drinkers, and 5% are heavy drinkers. The expanded availability of liquor would mostly convenience heavy drinkers (problematic drinkers), and thereby negatively impact them directly in ways that drive up motor vehicle crashes, incidents of DUI, police interventions, and in many cases assaults and domestic disturbances. Heavy drinkers tend to drink through the entire weekend if there is not a pause in availability – such as no Saturday or Sunday sales – something that gives them the opportunity to recover before the work days begin again. The social costs that flow from the alcohol-related problems created by policies that add hours of sale on the weekend, also add to the more than $250 billion in social costs annually for the U.S. and $7 billion for North Carolina. These social costs are something all of us have to pay whether we drink or not. The state best serves its citizenry by preserving and promoting policies that keep these costs at a minimum.
Generally, Christians believe the 4th Commandment of God, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” still stands and has not been repealed. The churches represented by the Christian Action League hold to this view and agree that the Sabbath Day was moved during New Testament times from Saturday to Sunday in response to the resurrection of Christ, which occurred on the first day of the week. Although Christians may differ about the way the day should be observed, there is universal agreement that God has designated it as a time for rest, family, worship, and spiritual reflection. Liquor sales or the imbibing of liquor, which can lead to insobriety and bad behavior, hardly seem consistent with keeping the Sabbath day holy, which means to keep it separate, different, distinct from other days of the week – a special day given to divine pursuits. Moreover, making liquor more accessible on Sunday increases the risks to public health and safety – something that profanes the Sabbath by breaking the greatest commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. There indeed should be freedom concerning such questions among Christians, as well as all people. Nevertheless, freedom used without responsibility, without legal or moral restraint, can no longer be defined as liberty, but instead licentiousness.
Separation of church and state rests on mutual respect and friendship between the two institutions. The Sabbath Day or the Lord’s Day is not to be enforced by law. But the state can still draw secular principles from the 4th Commandment, recognizing that all forms of commerce, as well as the culture in general, can garner significant benefits from a pause in its affairs. There is good research showing this is true when business interests stop for at least one full day out of seven. Additionally, any business that works to the detriment of its citizens, especially their public health and safety, and benefits its proprietor more than the public, ought not to be encouraged. Sunday sales of liquor would certainly fall within this category.
Regarding In-Store Liquor Tastings
There are some who would diminish the importance of this question, but it’s much larger than many understand.
Liquor tastings are a paradigm shift in the role of an ABC store, and such a shift would not be without consequence. ABC stores do not promote the sale of liquor; their role is to facilitate the public’s will for liquor sales as determined by local alcohol referenda. The priority of ABC stores is one of regulation and control, something that should never take a back seat to the pursuit of profits from the sale of liquor. For ABC stores to do otherwise is to take on a role opposed to their core objective, and, therefore, undermine that objective, making it vulnerable to increasing assaults. Liquor tastings are an unacceptable alliance between ABC stores and the liquor industry, the dual objective being to increase profitability for both entities. To concede to liquor tastings should not be seen as relatively insignificant, it would produce a crack in the foundation of ABC, something that could over time affect the entire structure. As the apostle, Paul warned, “A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough” (Gal. 5:9).
Regarding Merger of Boards
The uniqueness of North Carolina’s system for liquor sales, part of its genius, as compared with other state systems, is the way it provides for local control. The sale of liquor is only allowed in jurisdictions where citizens have approved such sales at the ballot box. Upon approval of an ABC store referendum, local governments may appoint ABC Boards, which are the only legal entities in the state authorized for liquor sales for consumption off-premise. To argue that the merging of boards would not result in communities experiencing a loss of local control and influence over liquor sales is not a tenable position. It would be a voluntary giving up of power over those sales and could prove to work against them at some point in time.
Moreover, it was the voters in local communities who authorized the existence of ABC boards when they voted for an ABC store. The PED legislation forces mergers, overruling the will of the voters. If Boards are to be merged, it should only take place after the will of the voters has been expressed at the ballot box.