Thou shalt not hunt on Sunday. So prescribes the law in Maine. But a new lawsuit, filed last Wednesday in Kennebec County Superior Court by Virginia Parker of Readfield, seeks to declare the long upheld “blue law” unconstitutional, which would prevent the state from enforcing it.
Maine is only one of two US states, along with Massachusetts, that still bans Sunday hunting, a prohibition that originated in colonial New England. The Pine Tree State’s statute has withstood numerous lawsuits across the decades, sporting, by some counts, a 35-0 record against legal challenges. But a constitutional amendment approved by voters last November, known as the “right to food,” may provide the legal framework to finally put the Sunday ban in the history books.
“Blue laws,” purportedly so-named because they were designed to prevent “blue,” or indecent, behavior, such blasphemy and drinking, on the Sabbath, were commonplace in early America. Most, like those limiting housework and travel, did not last beyond the colonial period. But some, aimed at prohibiting Sunday labor, hunting, and alcohol consumption, remain on the books in many states.
New Amendment Guarantees Right to “Harvest…Food”
Maine’s new “right to food” amendment—Article I, Section 25 of its constitution—guarantees Mainers “a natural, inherent, and inalienable right to food, including…the right to grow, raise, harvest, produce, and consume the food of their own choosing.” Parker, the plaintiff in the case, told reporters outside the court, “Opening up Sunday hunting would allow our family to go out on weekend hunting trips together as a family. We can teach our children how to properly and safely harvest animals. And we would have more opportunity to feed our family an organic, natural, God-given gift of wildlife.”
Jared Bornstein, founder of the Facebook group Maine Hunters United for Sunday Hunting, which backed Parker’s legal action, added, “For the majority of Mainers who choose to hunt, it is a spiritual, ancestral and economic necessity that they be afforded the most opportunity to be successful in their harvest. It is for this reason that the court will side decisively with the plaintiffs and invalidate the age-old statute banning the hunting of traditional food sources of Maine wildlife on Sunday.”
Despite the state’s long history of upholding the Sunday hunting ban, Bornstein says that Parker has a strong case, since the new amendment enshrines all Mainers with “the inherent and unalienable right to food – including wild game they harvest.”