The Sundays Excepted Clause

One of the truly oddest clauses in the Constitution, under almost any definition of “odd,” is the parenthetical Sundays Excepted Clause that can be found in Article I, Section 7’s “pocket veto” provision.  The Pocket Veto provision says that if a bill, signed by both houses of Congress, is sent to the President, and the President neither signs it nor explicitly vetoes it, then: “If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a law.”

So, the clock starts ticking when the President receives the bill, but Sunday doesn’t count toward the ten day period.  That’s odd!  Of course, some have suggested that this provision supports the view that the Framers thought we were a Christian nation.  According to this argument, the framers wrote the parenthetical into the Constitution as a way of recognizing that Sunday is the true sabbath and day of rest that god wants us to observe every week and so on and so on.  On the other hand, there’s this awesome article from the Alabama Law Review, written by 2006 Yale Law grad and (it would seem) former clerk to Justice Alito, Jaynie Randall (now Jaynie R. Lilley), which argues against the Christian enshrinement thesis and suggests instead that federalist concerns (many states had so-called Blue Laws that prohibited travel and labor on Sundays, and the framers didn’t want to interfere with them) best explain the clause.

Also, here’s my painting of Justice Alito with a green bunny on his shoulder that my editors would not print in Holy Hullabaloos but that is now currently hanging in the cafe across the street from my office.

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