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Sunday liquor sales: Let's rest safely on Sunday from booze

In this economy, we all try to find ways to stretch the dollar and rein in our spending. Government should do the same.

But when it comes to making dramatic change to public policy in the name of garnering a few extra dollars for state and local treasuries, we need to ask ourselves this question: Do we really want to make Sundays a free-for-all when it comes to the sale of wine, alcohol and hard liquor?

The Georgia Senate is poised to vote on legislation that would allow our communities to legalize the sales of beer, wine and hard liquor on the first day of the week - Sunday.

We should stop and think not about the cash registers that may be busy on Sundays but the pain that may be inflicted on so many innocent Georgians by making an endless supply of alcohol available on Sunday. If the legislature passes this bill, it will cost lives, burden taxpayers and tear apart families. The consequences may be more than meet the eye. It could increase revenue for state government, but at what cost?

Consider this:

· Fatal crashes increased 42 percent in New Mexico after the Sunday ban on alcohol sales was repealed in 1995. A study conducted over a 10-year period by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation attributed the increased number of crash fatalities directly to the lifting of the ban on Sunday alcohol sales.

It's one thing to have a few drinks at a football game or a restaurant, which is currently permitted in our state. In those cases, there is always a barrier, a bartender or waitress to stop the flow of booze. It's certainly different when you can load up a case of beer and hit the road - and the statistics prove it.

· Researchers at Notre Dame and MIT found that when blue laws are repealed, especially concerning the sale of alcohol, church attendance falls 15 percent and church donations fall 25 percent. Families need time together, and worshipping together is one of the best ways to maintain the family bond. Their 2008 study published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics also found that those who attended church and stopped after the ban was lifted on Sundays had greater increase of substance abuse.

Despite projections that legalizing Sunday sales of beer, wine and hard liquor could bring almost $5 million in taxes to Georgia government, one has to wonder if it would be worth the tradeoff. Many of those crash victims would wind up the burden of state and local taxpayers whether through Medicaid or other entitlement programs paid for by taxpayer dollars. I dare say that could exceed the $5 million in new state taxes.

The data proves it. Legalizing Sunday sales of alcohol would burden taxpayers, cause more deaths and more innocent victims of DUI accidents. Fewer families would spend time together worshipping on Sunday. Churches would lose revenue. And there is potential for more addiction.

If we follow the logic of convenience lobbyists arguing that governments need the cash and we should legalize Sunday alcohol sales, then in this economy we would also legalize and tax prostitution, illegal drugs and gambling. At some point, we have to draw the line and say it's not about the money. Government has a fiscal responsibility not to adopt policies that will place an additional burden on all of us.

In our lightning-speed world of BlackBerries, instant messaging and extended work weeks, it seems to me we also need to maintain public policy that keeps families healthy and together - not tears them apart.

Sadie Fields is chairman of the Georgia Christian Alliance.