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Sunday, 18 March 2012

Sabbath suspended for Olympics

As news breaks of a likely eight-week suspension of Sunday trading laws for the Olympics (, are we to expect a decree from the London Beth Din suspending the Jewish sabbath (shabbat) on Saturdays? As an agnostic, I mark the sabbath on a God-given eighth day of the week, which might or might not actually exist.

To declare a disinterest, although some of my best grandparents were Anglicans, I am myself Jewish, leading a largely secular lifestyle and not being 'shomer shabbat' (observant of the Jewish sabbath). Of course, I shop on Sundays, and actually nothing makes me grumpier than when all the newsagents in New Barnet shut (for lack of custom) on large parts of Sunday afternoon, just at the time when (to select a purely hypothetical example at random) a man matching my description might want to buy a copy of The Observer and sit reading it in a public house.

So praise be to the much-maligned supermarket convenience stores that now mean that I can buy a Sunday newspaper in Barnet. However, I do buy the idea that we can arguably do with one day when we take a break, or at least a relative break, from the pressures of consumerism, so I understand the arguments of Keep Sunday Special.

The Sunday trading laws are not an inseparable package, so we ought to be able to suspend some without suspending all of the others. The law allowing Christians to opt out of working on Sundays is a form of anti-discrimination law. We don't suspend anti-discrimination laws for the sake of the Olympics. There may be a case for suspending those Sunday trading laws that relate to opening hours, etc, but not those that relate to employment and Christians' right not to work on Sundays.

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