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Town Scraps Law Banning Work and Play on Sundays; Plans New Rules

August 27, 1991

PROSPECT PARK, N.J. (AP) _ A reluctant borough council has scrapped an ordinance that for almost a half-century outlawed work and play on Sundays in this community founded by the Dutch Reformed Church.

The action Monday followed a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a man fined $10 for fixing a broken radiator hose on his van on a Sunday.

The ACLU argued the Peace and Good Order Law violated constitutional rights to privacy and separation of church and state. The law banned commercial activity on Sundays and outlawed ″ordinary servile labor or work″ and playing ″any game or sport.″

″This ordinance goes way beyond what is necessary to create a quiet day on Sunday,″ said ACLU attorney Lawrence Lustberg. ″The only thing people are allowed to do under the law is go to church and watch TV. I think that’s too limited and their fears are not well founded.″

Council members said they did not want to spend money fighting a lawsuit they could not win, and decided instead to form new regulations that would ban sales and noise on the day of rest.

Some of the 5,500 residents of the town 15 miles north of Newark said officials were too hasty to scrap the law, which was approved in 1947. The law was based on a tradition dating to the town’s founding in 1901.

Donald Van Grouw argued that repealing the law would change the character of the town he has lived in since 1938.

″I’ve lived here for 53 years. Now I see things in the borough that I thought would never happen,″ Van Grouw told council members. ″Every town in New Jersey has a certain character and a certain uniqueness. The uniqueness of Prospect Park is that we’re a quiet town.″

Claire Furber, 29, was the only resident at the council meeting to speak out in favor of the change, saying she was tired of having only Saturdays to work on her house.

″It tooks us 4 1/2 months to paint our house,″ she said. ″It’s ridiculous.″

″Hire a painter 3/8″ a blue law supporter shouted.

″You have to realize that when it comes to church and state and prayer, our hands are tied,″ Councilwoman Betty Van Euewen said after the council voted unanimously to overturn the ordinance.