February 1, 2006
You have the following question:
Can the City prohibit or limit the hours of construction, and of garage sales, on Sundays?
The answer appears to be yes. There is an excellent annotation on Sunday Blue Laws at 10 A.L.R.4th 246. Although such laws are not common these days, that annotation surprisingly points to a large number of cases, including U.S. Supreme Court cases, in which they have been upheld. Many such laws prohibit a wide range of activities, including some that either expressly or by implication include construction activities. Although I can find no Sunday Blue Laws involving garage sales, that annotation also suggests that an ordinance prohibiting those activities on Sunday would survive a legal challenge.
As far as I can determine, the latest challenge to a Sunday Blue Law in Tennessee is Bookout v. City of Chattanooga, 442 S.W.2d 658 (1969). There the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld a city's Sunday Blue Law ordinance against a challenge that it was too vague and so arbitrary as to make it unconstitutional. Although that case did not involve construction activity or yard sales, it did prohibit certain businesses from selling various kinds of merchandise on Sunday, and points to the proposition that a wide range of activity on Sunday could be prohibited.
A good case involving a Sunday Blue Law that prohibited a broad range of activity on Sunday, including construction, is State x rel. Heck's Inc. v. Gates, 141 S.E.2d 369 (1965). In that case, the West Virginia Supreme Court upheld a state Sunday Blue Law against various legal
challenges, citing for support a number of cases from other jurisdictions which had upheld similar laws.
Taking into account the various challenges that can be mustered against Sunday Blue Laws, and the problems construction sites and garage sales produce, I suspect that the prohibition of such activity on Sunday has a solid secular purpose sufficient to withstand those challenges.
Sidney D. Hemsley
Senior Law Consultant