Sunday sales and a different kind of GOP conservatism

It would be more than fair to say that Georgia has moved a grocery aisle closer to the package sale of beer, wine and liquor on Sunday.

After decades of failure, a bill to legalize such purchases whipped through a Senate committee on Wednesday like a moonshiner down Erskine Caldwell’s dirt road, with only one vote of dissent and nary a witness to stand against it.

We are told that the measure’s suddenly swift movement is due to the absence of Sonny Perdue and his Southern Baptist, non-alcoholic persuasions. And that is partially true.

But something larger is afoot. We are witnessing the diminishment – however temporary — of conservative Christian lobbying at the state Capitol, and the rise of something different.

Republicans often talk of the chill that last November’s tea party-driven vote sent up President Barack Obama’s spine. Only rarely do they acknowledge that those same ballots signaled a shift to a more libertarian brand of conservatism within the GOP.

Past attempts to permit the Sunday sale of six-packs failed because of the threat they posed to Southern religion and tradition. Introducing his bill this year, state Sen. John Bulloch, R-Ochlocknee, said it had nothing to do with the Christian Sabbath.

“It’s a bill about local control,” Bulloch said. And we’re all about limited government these days, because the pitchforks – once held by followers of Ralph Reed and Pat Robertson — are now in the hands of tea partyers.

In slightly more than 30 minutes, HB 10 was passed out of the Senate’s State and Local Government Operations Committee, chaired by freshman Butch Miller, a boisterous Honda dealer from Flowery Branch.

A Kroger executive testified in favor of the bill. So did a working mom who had time to shop only on Sundays. So did the representative of a convenience store chain. But the religious right was silent.

Ray Newman, lobbyist for the Georgia Baptist Convention, didn’t attend. “We’ve made contact with people. They know our position,” he said.

Jerry Luquire, head of the Georgia Christian Coalition, also skipped the hearing. “I don’t show up at the Capitol much anymore because that’s not where the power is anymore. The power is among the people,” he said. Luquire said his group would carry the fight to local communities.

In the 2009 fight over Sunday sales, Tim Echols, founder of a group that introduces kids – often home-schooled – to the workings of government, packed a Senate hearing with young Christians who spoke against the measure.

This year, as a new member of the Public Service Commission, Echols is staying out of the fight.

The vacuum is so obvious that the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, a supporter of the Sunday sales bill, made the measure a “scorecard” issue. The chamber will “grade” lawmakers on their vote come the next election.

Thirty years ago, a coalition of Southern Baptist and Methodist religious leaders ruled over the state’s blue laws, which carved out a quiet, often confusing place for Sundays. As one witness testified Wednesday, you could buy a can of beans on Sunday – but not a can opener.

Cracks in blue laws began appearing as metro Atlanta grew. Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, now a member of the PSC, remembers negotiating with Gov. Joe Frank Harris – a Methodist teetotaler – over a bill to permit the Chateau Elan resort north of Atlanta to sell, on Sunday, the wine it produced.

Harris himself, before he left office in 1991, lured a Budweiser brewery to his hometown of Cartersville.

Growth brought new residents to the area who didn’t seem to mind – Catholics, Presbyterians, Jews and Hindus. “It’s a different kind of religious landscape, that’s for certain,” said Gary Laderman, professor of American religious history at Emory University.

For the last decade or so, holding the conservative Christian line on social issues has fallen to Sadie Fields of the Georgia Christian Alliance, who knew the tactics that moved the state Capitol.

She understood that forcing a stalled vote on gay marriage in 2004 didn’t require a statewide effort. Fields simply called the pastors of churches in House Speaker Terry Coleman’s rural district.

But Fields retired last year. “Is there a void left by the Georgia Christian Alliance? Clearly I think there is,” said Dan Becker of Georgia Right to Life.

It would be wholly incorrect to say that conservative Christian influence has fled the Capitol. But its scope has been reduced.

GRTL is currently the most prominent conservative Christian group lobbying at the Capitol. But the group limits itself solely to “life” issues such as abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Not gay marriage, not the sale of alcohol.

Georgia Right to Life, in fact, has drawn on metro Atlanta’s growing Catholic population for a significant portion of its support. And many – if not most — Catholics don’t have a dog in the Sunday sales fight.

Like others, Becker said that conservative Christians haven’t left the field – but are reorganizing. Many tea partyers, he said, have been befuddled by the movement’s decision to shy away from traditional social conservative issues.

Look for them to repair the movement quickly, Becker said. ”They’ll reorganize. And it will be a force to reckon with, once it’s up and running.”

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me on Facebook.

62 comments Add your comment


February 2nd, 2011
6:46 pm

I guess religious fascism in this state is ok.


February 2nd, 2011
7:36 pm

Like the working Mom who only has time on Sunday, I too often choose that day to grocery shop. It would be nice to pick up a bottle of wine or a six pack or two as we often have unexpected company on Sunday especially during the NFL season. I don’t normally stockpile alcoholic beverages so I think I should be able to run down and pick some up if I choose to do so. I also think it should be allowed statewide and not left up to local jurisdictions.

Question Man

February 2nd, 2011
8:30 pm

If tea partyers hold the power and are a “more libertarian brand of conservatism within the GOP,” what explains their silence about Georgia borrowing and spending huge sums for reservoirs? Where is the outrage about the size and cost of Nathan Deal’s staff? Where are the protests about Georgia talking about footing all the costs of deepening the Port of Sabanannah (or about seeking Federal dollars through earmarks)? Where are the multitudinous voices? .

Saxby Hisself

February 2nd, 2011
9:07 pm

Hah! I’ve got your answer questions man: its cuz the tea-partiers are just angry, really angry republicans. They don’t mind pork and perqs when it benefits Republicans, its only when the pork and perqs benefits “those people” that the Tea-Pary gets upset. Like when the yankees and pinkos elected that Kenyan-Jihadist who has stuffed the guvmint full of “those people.” If you know what I mean.

They will re-elect me in a landslide because I’m a true Tea-Pary Patriot myself. Yes indeedy.


February 2nd, 2011
9:11 pm

@ Question Man – The answer is simple, most people are hypocrites. That goes for all sides, Repubs, Dems, Liberterians, Christians, Muslims, Jews…

E. Gantry

February 2nd, 2011
9:12 pm

“Like others, Becker said that conservative Christians haven’t left the field – but are reorganizing.”

Screw that, I never voted to elect these holy rollers to represent me. They are welcome to their opinions but keep it in the sanctuary, don’t try to impose your narrow minded strictures on the rest of us. This silly Sunday blue law should have been repealed years ago.


February 2nd, 2011
9:13 pm

Also, multitudinous? Don’t try so hard.


February 2nd, 2011
9:16 pm

get over it,tax it


February 2nd, 2011
9:24 pm

Question Man learn to spell .


February 2nd, 2011
9:26 pm

High and mighty fundy christo-rethuglians will drop their morals in a second to hold on to power.


February 2nd, 2011
9:28 pm

Good riddance. We should abide by our own moral guidelines, not try to impose them on others. It’s this very belief that our nation was founded upon.


February 2nd, 2011
9:39 pm

Who really cares what your broke, bankrupt state does? You idiots became irrelevant long ago!

another comment

February 2nd, 2011
10:07 pm

I guess they have realized that Catholics the fastest growing religion in the State of Georgia. The amazing thing is you don’t walk in one Sunday and get saved after one Mass ( service) either. The process to convert if you are not born into the faith is long, like a year of conversion classes with a sponser.

Catholics are honest about drinking. They are not hypocrites like Baptists that hide a brown paper bag of vodka in the pantry and pour it into the glass, to hide it from their 80 year old Mama. Some of the Baptists I know have the biggest problems with drinking, because they don’t know how to drink socially. Only binge drink, due to being in the closet. It is time to come out of the closet and have Sunday Sales. Plus we need the tax money. dah!


February 2nd, 2011
10:20 pm

“…a shift to a more libertarian brand of conservatism within the GOP.”
Now that’s a change I can believe in.


February 2nd, 2011
10:42 pm

Go Sunday sales Go! Get through while the Christian Coalition is weak and regrouping. They’ll never stop local sunday sales referenda in metro Atlanta or other Georgia cities with cosmopolitan elements like Savannah and Athens! Go go go.


February 2nd, 2011
10:57 pm

My first trip to GA. was from MKE. Stopped at a store on a Sunday after driving 16 hours to get a beer for the hotel. The clerk grabbed it and said it was against the law. Later went to a hamburger joint, where everyone was drinking. So I was a little confused. The barkeep said you can drink as much as you want here, but you can’t buy it to take home. So I concluded, rightly, that in GA. it’s alright to drink and then drive, rather than have a cold one at home where you can’t kill someone. At least on Sundays. You have to love the logic.


February 2nd, 2011
11:02 pm

From Mike Griffins Facebook page:

Mike Griffin
I can promise everyone that GRTL is doing it’s job of defending life. We have not and will not leave our post!!!!

Sunday sales and a different kind of GOP conservatism | Political Insider
It would be more than fair to say that Georgia has moved a grocery aisle closer to the package sale of beer, wine and liquor on Sunday. After decades of


February 2nd, 2011
11:07 pm

Prohibition was over 80 years ago.

Can we please move on?

When Neil Boortz is now on the side of Sunday sales, you know the tide has turned against the fundamentalists.

Brian Hunt

February 2nd, 2011
11:10 pm

It’s about time the religious right stepped back and away from the GOP. They were the main reason I stopped supporting the Republicans.


February 3rd, 2011
12:39 am

“…a shift to a more libertarian brand of conservatism within the GOP.”

If only this were true. Try talking about legalizing or de-criminalizing marijuana, though, and see how “libertarian” their thinking is. But please, let’s keep locking people up for possession of a plant. Got to get all that fine/probation/correction facility money, though, so folks like the APD can buy their nifty para-military gear and raid the homes of little old ladies. And shoot them.


February 3rd, 2011
2:06 am

I had planned to give my input, but so many fires to put out with the current Administration, time is a fleeting commodity. I would have voted “No” just to have a few less drunks on the road.


February 3rd, 2011
3:10 am


“I would have voted “No” just to have a few less drunks on the road.”

This makes no sense. You realize that under the current system, anyone can go to a bar or restaurant on Sundays and drink all they want, right? Then, how do you think they get home?

As opposed to allowing these people to buy alcohol at a store, drive it HOME, and proceed to drink there, without the drinking beforehand and then driving that occurs right now?

If you want less drunks on the road on Sundays, then voting “YES” would seem the logical action, correct? Ah, but logic must not be your strong suit. Please stop talking.

El Kabong

February 3rd, 2011
4:06 am

Why yes, lets expand the sale of the most dangerous and costly abused drug in our society! The state needs the money to continue to keep the other drug abusers in prison and the judges and police officers and probation officers and prison guards et al with jobs and allegiance to the state. The state needs the money to continue with this hypocritical farce called the “War on Drugs”. The taxpayers are really getting a good deal for their money. No one can get high now thanks to our politicians efforts.

And don’t forget the war on gambling and the war on prostitutes!

It isn’t the Christian conservatives that keep the farce in place; it is the Reps and Dems. “Two bankrupt parties bankrupting the US.”


February 3rd, 2011
6:43 am

Simple Republican formula:
If it’s ME: I earned it.
If it’s you: It’s welfare.

T.J. Jackson

February 3rd, 2011
7:15 am

Just shows you the liquor lobby is stronger than the tobacco lobby, seeing as how liquor has been proven over and over to be more dangerous to the public than tobacco. I say that on the basis that I don’t do either one and am opposed to both, but if gov’t is going to tax tobacco to death, why not liquor, too.

The General

February 3rd, 2011
7:18 am

@ catlady

I think it’s more like:
If I earned it, it’s mine.
If you earned it, it’s yours.

The General

February 3rd, 2011
7:19 am

@ T.J. Jackson

You don’t have much of a clue about current liquor taxes, do you?

Capital Idea

February 3rd, 2011
7:28 am

“Local control” means that your friends get to cash in on your Gold Dome deals

[...] If you are interested in Georgia politics then the Political Insider is a must read and you can find the whole article here. [...]


February 3rd, 2011
7:59 am

Alcohol is perhaps the most deadly substance mankind as ever produced. As a society we should be doing everythig we can to reduce its usage not increase it. If you are for increased alcohol sales you are a fool. Driving drunk is murder on our highways.


February 3rd, 2011
8:00 am

I wonder who is paying for the liquor tab at the Dome? Knowing what the alcohol lobby does to buy votes, any group opposing them doesn’t stand a chance. Come on people. Get with it. It is just one more lobby buying votes from the Legislature.

And if you are so busy six days of the week to not be able to swing by a grocery store or convenience store (including to get gas) you might want to reexamine your life. You’re telling me you do absolutely NOTHING else the other days of the week?


February 3rd, 2011
8:11 am

Attn Lawmakers: This is your last term in office!!!!!!! Jobs!!! Remember them. You are spending time and energy on this and my neighbors and friends are jobless. You fools!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


February 3rd, 2011
8:35 am

The no alcohol sales on Sunday law is dumb. And sorely outdated. It’s as simple as that. People need to stop trying to revert us back to the 50s, or whatever era they thought was the best. Exactly what effect does alcohol sales on Sunday have on you as a person? Answer: None. If you don’t buy liquor during the rest of the week, are you now suddenly going to rush to the market after church on Sunday and pick up a bottle of whiskey? Taxes pay for things–you sell alcohol on Sundays now, you have more taxes in your budget to pay for things. If you don’t drink, the passing of this will have zero effect on you. So stop complaining. I’m surprised someone hasn’t thrown in the obligatory “Won’t someone think of the children?”. Better yet, let’s stop selling alcohol all together, and lose all those jobs for distributors, delivery drivers, liquor store owners, brewers, bartenders, wine makers, etc.


February 3rd, 2011
8:37 am

Ya’ll missing the point – Murdoch is using his network to mess with NASCAR (whoever heard of a 3 hour race!), already screwed up baseball, and is now aiming for football. And, you really trust him for news on politics…. heh heh … The Anti-Christ is here and you are lapping up his words!

The Capn

February 3rd, 2011
9:03 am

Red, it’s not about “time management,’ this is about Equal Protection under the Law. If a restaurant can sell all the liquor they want on Sunday, the liquor/convenience/grocery store’s rights are being violated simply because of packaging. I also object to the “local control” thing, and the time limit placed in the bill with a start time of 12:30. I guess the religious fundies ordered the legislature to at least make sure that no one needs to be able to buy alcohol while they are in church. As for “putting more drunks on the road?” As others so logically point out, the current law encourages drunk driving.
And, if it’s “not about religion,” then why are the loudest voices against it all religious fundamentalists? If it’s “not about religion,” but you want one day a week of no alcohol sales, then rotate the dry day each week. And, to avoid the current hypocrisy, ban ALL alcohol sales that day, not just packaged alcohol.

Double Zero Eight

February 3rd, 2011
9:14 am

Jesus and His disciples drank wine at the Last Supper.


February 3rd, 2011
9:15 am

You’re right, Red……people should be organized enough to be able to get all their shopping done in six days. However, statistics show that the ‘lightest’ grocery shopping day of the week is Tuesday so, logically, if there’s going to be a day with no alcohol sales it should be Tuesday, right?


February 3rd, 2011
9:16 am


One of the primary reasons the liquor lobby is OPPOSED to this bill?

They’ll have to *HIRE MORE PEOPLE* in order to be open on Sundays.

Still want to say this isn’t at least partially a jobs bill?

Oh, and to those opposed: You do realize that WHEN (not if) this law passes, not a single drop of alcohol will be sold on Sunday following the Governor’s signature, right? In fact, it will take until (at the earliest) the following January, after your local government has already passed a resolution calling for an election on the issue and a majority of your community members have decided they want it.

Looking at the timeline from Leesburg, who just approved a liquor by the drink on Sunday resolution this past November, the City Council passed the resolution in August. The election was in November, and the now-approved law was just finalized not 48 hrs ago on Feb 1. Now that the local law has been finalized, the local Mexican restaurant (the only restaurant in town persuing a liquor license) STILL has to go back to the State to do a background check, and only when THAT is finalized will they be finally able to serve a mixed drink. That could be as early as a month from now, but possibly longer. March 2 will be 4 months after the voters said they wanted to be able to buy a mixed drink there, and nearly 7 months since the Leesburg City Council gave the voters the opportunity to express their desire on the issue.

Even if the law is signed by Deal in May and goes into affect in July, the earliest a vote could happen is, I believe, July 2012 (Primary day) or maybe even November 2012 (the next General election). If it is November 2012, and it takes until the following March for stores to finally be able to sale on Sunday, we’re looking at more than 2 yrs since it passed the Senate Committee, and nearly 2 yrs since it was signed by the Governor before the first sales actually happen.

THAT is reality.

Freedom lover

February 3rd, 2011
9:17 am

True conservatives understand that government is the problem, not the solution. They value small, less intrusive government, and freedom. True Christians don’t worship at the alter of the almighty state, using that power to destroy the freedoms and liberties of others. True Christians have enough faith in their religion that they don’t worry that their god will somehow be diminished by people buyin alcohol from a store on Sunday.

But in this state there are virtually no true conservatives or christians. Just a bunch of totalitarian progressives who think they know how to live life better than anyone else and arent’ afraid to use the destructive power of the state to force their beliefs on everyone else.

Thank goodness these types have kept their miserable asses at home and are finally going to allow some pitiful measure of freedom in this state.

Double Zero Eight

February 3rd, 2011
9:18 am

It is perplexing and probable that many of the
advocates that want to ban Sunday alcohol sales,
see nothing wrong with bringing guns to houses of
worship on Sunday.


February 3rd, 2011
9:29 am

@ “another comment”, Catholics are hypocrites too. don’t tell me that being gay is wrong, and then most of your priests are gay, and some do heinous things to kids. So don’t be so smug about being so open about drinking. You guys have skeletons in your closet too.


February 3rd, 2011
9:30 am

Let’s Make a Deal Deal has to find some new tax money to pay the exorbitant salaries of his staff.

Road Scholar

February 3rd, 2011
9:33 am

Wine and weapons! WWJD

Johns Creek resident

February 3rd, 2011
9:45 am

Let us not forget that we have an alcoholism problem in our society.


February 3rd, 2011
9:46 am

Enter your comments here


February 3rd, 2011
9:48 am

JC resident, we also have an obesity problem. Think closing fast food places on Sunday would help?


February 3rd, 2011
9:49 am

I have never understood why calling for government control would be called “conservative”. Government control is the definition of “liberal”.

Sunday Sales Summed Up In A Showtune

February 3rd, 2011
10:54 am

Another chance to disapprove,
Another brilliant zinger.
Another reason not to move,
Another Vodka stinger.

I’ll Drink to that.

The Capn

February 3rd, 2011
10:56 am

@JohnsCreekRes: We have obesity problems, too. Does McDonalds need to close on Sunday?

Do you honestly think that preventing people from a certain kind of alcohol purchase on Sunday will solve their alcoholism? No, and it’s disingenuous to pretend that it will. In fact, ten bucks says that the true alcoholics are bellied up to the bar at The Olive Garden on Sunday, getting their fix in, if they aren’t already stocked at home to the gills.
Remember, we aren’t arguing over the *sale* of alcohol on Sunday, we are arguing over the packaging. People want to pretend otherwise, but make no mistake: you CAN buy alcohol on Sundays, but the state has made a discriminatory decision over who can sell it, and in what form. Jeff has a very valid point that has been made on other blogs: That package sales can be over a year away. And if some local politician decides he or she needs to “study” the issue before putting it on the ballot, and misses the deadline for a referendum, then, oh, well, I guess we’ll look at it again next year. In effect, the prohibition will stand as long as local politicians can figure out a way to game the system, and block the measure. All while pretending to “support a local vote”, but in reality, thinking of any reason to delay actually letting the vote happen.

Drop the prohibition effective immediately, along with church-ordered time limits, and then let local communities decide if or when to have a referendum controlling that sale. Let’s see how fast a measure will make it onto a ballot when it is that way.


February 3rd, 2011
11:10 am

My understanding is if it passes and Deal signs it, we could vote on it as early as this November. At least that’s what Monica Pearson said last night on WSB-TV and I trust her more than I do random Internet posters. I doubt you’ll see much resistance here in the “godless” City Of Atlanta. :)