Since the early 20th century, children across the U.S. have celebrated Halloween by attending parties, donning costumes and scoring candy from neighbors.
It has now become an enormously popular cultural cash cow that’s estimated to produce $6.2 billion this year in merchandise sales, according to California market-research firm IBISWorld.
The holiday traditionally falls on Oct. 31. However, in one Louisiana parish, the holiday is held Oct 30, but that’s only if it happens to fall on a Sunday.
Local governments should not regulate what day Halloween trick-or-treating falls on, especially when considering the weak nature of the arguments in favor of doing so.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is challenging a Livingston Parish ordinance that prohibits, with a penalty of up to 30 days in jail, the facilitation of Halloween trick-or-treating on a Sunday. It argues that Halloween is a religious celebration, and therefore, the government cannot regulate it.
Likewise, opponents of the ban have accused the Livingston council of showing religious favoritism by not allowing a holiday that features a degree of religious blasphemy on Sunday, the “day of rest” when Christians worship and attend service.
Whether Halloween is a religious observance is highly questionable, but the ACLU’s end goal is still valid.
For most parents and children, Halloween isn’t about religion, but the opportunity to decorate their homes, hand out buckets of candy, dress as a favorite hero or goon and revel in the festivities with other communities.
Changing the date creates confusion and, inevitably, a second Halloween, as some don’t observe the alternative date. It also unnecessarily introduces the heavy fist of the law and a potential 30-day stint in jail that could cost someone their job, mortgage or relationships.
There are two possible motives behind the ban. Many argue in favor of a religious standpoint, which should have no standing in a secular American government. Others argue the holiday should be changed because Sunday is a school night and kids should be in bed.
For many years, trick-or-treating was moved to the following Monday night if it fell on Sunday in Livingston Parish, until earlier this month when it when it was moved to the previous Saturday.
Even if it’s only about getting kids into bed on time, trick-or-treating is only allowed until 8 p.m. in Livingston Parish. Most importantly, bed times are implemented at the discretion of parents, not the local government.
In Florida, laws are also implemented for Halloween, creating bans on adopting black cats the week of the holiday and prohibiting some sex offenders from handing out candy.
However, legally prohibiting or altering the date of Halloween sets a bad precedent for the entire U.S. and must be overturned.