December 5: The 80th anniversary of the Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

Eighty years later, how much has really changed?

Today marks the 80th anniversary of a hard-fought and significant victory for separation of religious “morality” from government enforcement.

On December 5th, 1933, the Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States passed, repealing the Eighteenth Amendment and ending national prohibition of the sale, production, importation, and transportation of alcoholic beverages. The exceptions were alcohol for chemical and industrial uses and communion wine. The Volstead Act, as it came to be called, passed despite President Wilson’s veto. The federal government enforced the act through the Department of the Treasury, which lacked the resources to enforce it—only 1,520 officers were assigned to the task. It’s estimated that in 1925 there were as many as 100,000 “speakeasies” (underground bars) in New York City alone. This greatly expanded the influence and wealth of the American Mafia and organized crime in general as they moved into the roles of producing and distributing alcohol in addition to providing “protection” from law enforcement.

The prohibition movement was led by Protestants and grew out of the temperance movement of the 19th century. The New Testament has stern things to say about drunkenness and saloons were thought to be destroying American families, not just because of alcohol but because of things like dancing, music, and sex workers, as well. While alcohol addiction continues to be a serious health problem in the United States and around the world today, religious morality as a basis for secular law is unconstitutional and always has been.

Although the Twenty-First Amendment has been in effect for, as I said, 80 years now, the idea that biblical moral values should influence the rest of us still holds fast in many parts of the country. Alcohol sales are prohibited in many areas on Sundays or after certain hours, a prohibition with no secular backing whatsoever. There are so-called “dry” areas in this country where the production, transportation, sale, or consumption of alcohol is prohibited or very tightly restricted.

I am of the opinion that adults should be able to make up their own minds. If, for religious reasons, someone chooses to abstain from alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, or anything else, that is her right. But passing a law that affects others in this way is against the letter and spirit of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Below, you’ll find a map of the United States showing  dry (red), wet (blue), and mixed (yellow) counties.

dry-counties
In October of last year, I visited Napa Valley on a road trip with a friend. I’m not much of a drinker, but I specifically wanted to go to Beaulieu Vineyards, one of the most-respected and oldest producers in the region. BV is historically important because it was the only Napa producer that did not shut down during Prohibition. The reason for this is that unlike other producers, there were able to strike a deal with the Catholic Church to produce sacramental wine for communion at masses all across the nation. They were able to buy up surrounding estates at a significant discount, and today are one of the largest producers in the United States. By the 1940s, following the repeal of prohibition, BV—as one of the only remaining commercial wineries in operation in the country—came to be the wine served at all White House functions.

Below is a picture of me with a row of wine barrels at the BV vineyard where the wine is fermenting before being bottled, and a picture of my road-trip friend “praying” to a HUGE vat of grape juice.

If you ever have a chance to visit, it’s worth an hour of your time: They do a wonderful tour and it’s an amazing history lesson surprisingly entangled with 19th and 20th-century United States religious history.

Have a great evening!

– Dave Muscato, Public Relations Director

(908) 276-7300 x7
[email protected]



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  • Joseph Veca

    What is the significance of the gray areas?

  • rargos

    ” the idea that biblical moral values should influence the rest of us still holds fast in many parts of the country”
    So if I oppose abortion because I think it ends a human life (i.e. no different from murder), that’s okay, but if I oppose abortion because my religion tells me it’s morally wrong, that’s not okay? How about theft and murder? My religion tells me those are wrong too, so let’s abolish laws prohibiting stealing and killing, right?

    • Edward Detian Liu

      Your logic is flawed. The original statement is: Act A should not be done because of Reason A. You said you agree with original then stated: Act A should not be done because of Reason B. And you jumped to: Therefore Act B should not be done because of just Reason A. Quite illogical.

      • rargos

        Your comment makes no sense at all. But since you claim to like logic (even if you can’t express yourself clearly), here’s a simple example of the logical fallacy you are engaging in
        – If someone is religious, that person opposes abortion
        – I oppose abortion
        – Therefore I am religious
        This is a logical fallacy (asserting the conclusion). Just because someone opposes abortion doesn’t mean they are doing it for religious reasons.
        Here’s another
        -If you are religious, you oppose abortion
        -I am not religious
        -Therefore I do not oppose abortion.
        This is also a logical fallacy (denying the premise). Again
        -Laws based on religous belief are bad
        -This law is not based on religous belief
        -Therefore, this law is good (not bad)
        Maybe you need to take a course in basic logic.

        • Edward Detian Liu

          You are saying that if I am secular and I see that you oppose something religiously that I would wanna stop you from adhering to anything that is religious. That is flawed.

          • rargos

            Yes, it is flawed. People have many reasons for opposing an issue, and it is illogical to assume that everyone who opposes abortion, e.g. is doing it based on religious grounds. I think that, in most cases, abortion is murder carried out against a defenceless, innocent child. While there are some cases where I would tolerate abortion (safety of the mother, severe, non-survivable birth defects, rape, etc.) I do not think it is good for our society to say that’s it’s okay to kill a healthy unborn child as a method of birth-control, especially when effective birth control is available (and should be free to everyone, in my opinion) and pregnancy is 100% avoidable if people refrain from having sex unless they’re willing to accept that it might produce children. It’s all about the need for RESPONSIBILITY, not religious belief.

          • Edward Detian Liu

            OK look sir or madame, you are obviously an intelligent individual or at the very least a dedicated one.I on the other hand have so far made a fool of myself. I also do not completely disagree with your comment, however the point I wish to make is in regards to your comment here: “So if I oppose abortion because I think it ends a human life (i.e. no different from murder), that’s okay, but if I oppose abortion because my religion tells me it’s morally wrong, that’s not okay? How about theft and murder? My religion tells me those are wrong too, so let’s abolish laws prohibiting stealing and killing, right?” The problem I have with this is that you are saying that atheists have a problem with you because it’s a religious basis and that’s exactly the point.We are NOT assuming that everything you oppose is on religious grounds. However, doing so and then forcing others to not do something as well purely on religious basis is wrong. I just like you and most other rational human beings oppose rape, murder and theft, however when I legally say that these things are ILLEGAL, I should not be doing so because of a religious basis. To be absolutely clear, I am not foolish enough to think if a reason came from a religious beginning it is automatically wrong, simply that a law should not come from such a beginning or be strongly influenced by any religion. Even if I was a christian or a Muslim or a Jew or whatever, I’d still just as strongly be opposed to this. The law in the US is about freedom but only to the degree which it does not impose upon others, and doing so on the basis of religion is wrong, just as wrong as it is to so in the name of National Security or any other private, personal belief or cause.

          • Edward Detian Liu

            Now on to the actual abortion aspect of this: (First let me say I intend to expand on this soon, but it’s very late here in California, and I must rest soon.) I wholeheartedly believe that if I was to ever irresponsibly get a woman pregnant, I’d do my best to try and convince her to keep the baby. I believe that I have both the means and the will to provide for a child. Furthermore, I oppose killing a potential future life as a morally abhorrent act. HOWEVER, it is not my place to decide for the woman. It is the WOMAN’S choice to make whatever that may be. It is debatable as to whether or not snuff out a life now and avoid a potentially miserable and criminal/violent/addicted, etc. life or to take the chance and possibly have the next Einstein/Newton/Caesar, come into being. What is NOT debatable is that it is currently legally in the US up to a woman to choose if she wishes to have an abortion. Furthermore, if the legal standpoint of this should ever change, it should be for legal, moral or otherwise secular reasons. Lastly, I must insist that I hold this view, not because of my atheism, but in spite of it, it is just as harmful to be blinded by my faith in atheism as it would be if that faith was in Allah, Jesus, or Zeus.
            PS I dearly apologize for my lack of effort in well constructed, well thought out replies, I had forgotten that there are other people on these comment sections who aren’t trolls or simple inquisitors. (people wondering just one or two things that can be simply answered is what context I’m referring to.)

          • rargos

            Thank you for the well-stated and well-reasoned reply. At some point an unborn fetus is considered a human being, not some appendage of a woman’s body – obviously we don’t allow women to kill their unborn child while they are in labor, and most places that allow abortion still prohibit it in the last trimester. The problem then becomes: at what point is a fetus a human being (which the pregnant mother does not have the “right” to kill)? Even if we agree on a limit (no abortions after first 6 months, we are essentially saying that one day it’s not a human and the next day it is … a slippery slope.
            Again, I think in this case we’ll just have to agree to disagree — I certainly respect your right to hold your views and work to promote them: that’s the way a healthy society should work. The only thing I object to is people who use abortion as a proxy issue for attacking religious belief, and I’m very pleased that you (as an atheist) are not doing that. Hopefully both atheists and religious people can work together to find ways to reduce unwanted pregnancies (better eduaction, better birth control, etc.) — it’s a worthy goal that we all agree on.
            Thanks again.

          • Edward Detian Liu

            Well, in a purely hypothetical world, if you could become the supreme leader of all people’s on this planet, what would the policy be for abortion?

          • rargos

            I would allow abortion in the case where the mother’s life is endanged, where the fetus is so badly deformed it would not survive after birth, and in the case of rape, etc.
            HOWEVER, I would also take a more holistic approach to the problem: free access to birth control, comprehensive reproductive education, etc. but most importantly I would pursue policies to promote personal responsibility — modern American society places seems to ignore the fact that “rights” need to be balanced by “responsibilities”. If you knew that you would have to care for a baby for 18 years (and couldn’t simply kill it), you might be more careful in terms of avoiding pregancy. Similarly, if we held fathers equally responsible for the care of the child for all those years (and enforced child support laws seriously), more men might be more careful as well.

          • Edward Detian Liu

            Again, I must apologize for my lack of content due to the lateness of the hour here, but just pointing out one thing: We’re been having irresponsible people for time immemorial, we always will continue to have them. So doesn’t the question really come down to: Is it better to have a life snuffed out entirely, or to have a life that will most likely lead to crime, poverty, etc. with a slight chance that they’ll become a hard working and productive/happy member of society?

          • rargos

            Sounds like you’re proposing a eugenics-type approach to abortion: if your parent(s) are poor, uneducated, etc. then abortion is okay since the child is less likely to “succeed” in society than a child both in better socio-economic conditions. I’m kind of hoping that I misunderstood, since I have to say that I would fine that type of approach morally repugnant. It would be better if we all tried to improve the life of the poor, uneducated, etc. instead of looking the other way if they abort their “undesirable” children.
            Again, my apologies if I’ve misunderstood your point.

          • Edward Detian Liu

            I’m not saying that’s what our policy should purely be based on, but those are just the facts. I’m not saying that if a child is likely to grow up mentally retarded, violent, crippled, etc. then we should go ahead and snuff out that life. I’m saying that the parents should have that choice available to them, and what you’re saying, or rather what you’re proposing is subjective is it not?

          • rargos

            I’m sorry, but killing an unborn human based on one’s predictions about that child’s future socio-economic status is, in my mind, completely indefensible and morally bankrupt.
            I sincerely appreciate your honesty and courtesy in discussing this issue with me, but I think this is a point on which we’re much too far apart to ever agree.
            But again, thank you for taking the time to explain your viewpoints. I wish there were more people like you when it comes to politely and thoughtfully discussing topics like this.

          • Edward Detian Liu

            Pleas don’t go into a discussion with that mindset, if you do, neither of us will ever learn or grow. Anyhow, let me be more explicit, abortion should be available to the parents as an option. It is merely a coincidence that the lower class tends to get more abortions, not because they’re corrupt, or evil, or anything else. Abortion IS about family. Too often these days do we forget what abortion is ultimately about in the end, it isn’t about whether or not the baby lives, it’s why should the baby live. If you can come at me with an argument not based on religious or moral reasons, then I’d gladly hear it. Too long have we sought to morally control our fellow man, without addressing the underlying problem. Still though, like I said, abortions enable PLANNED PARENTHOOD, see what that organization is about? Not murdering innocent babies, but about allowing happy, intended families, not burdening an unwilling mother with a child she doesn’t want. Yes, it is adorable to see a new born babe, and yes, the mother could come around and learn to love her child, it IS her child after all. But too many dreams and wishes of the living are sacrificed in the fires of morality. Live for the Living I say, and in conclusion, you must consider the larger picture, as do I. (I’m not crazy and expect to you instantly come around to my way of thinking just because of what I’ve said/presented, but I do hope that you can consider it and see if your position stands.) We should believe there is ultimately a right answer even if we ourselves don’t know what it is, or ever know what it is, there should be a correct answer that’s dependable and defend-able short of an apocalypse or a revelation in the laws of physics.

    • Edward Detian Liu

      Point is that opposing something is one thing. Subjugating others legally because of your religion is wrong.

      • rargos

        Please how my personal religious beliefs “subjugate” others — can you give an example? How are decisions based on religious beliefs different from decisions based on a secular moral code?

        • Edward Detian Liu

          I am simply pointing out that you’re implying that because you hold certain religious beliefs you’re saying that others must follow them as well on the basis that you believe them.

          • rargos

            Absolutely not! I am not implying anything of the sort. Where did you get that idea? Just because I believe something doesn’t mean that I expect other people to follow my beliefs — that’s for each individual to decide. The Muslims have a saying: “there is no compulsion in religion”, and I completely agree with that. Unfortunately, many atheists seems to think that all believers are intolerant and want to persecute people who think differently from them. Maybe atheists are all trying to convert the world to their way of thinking, but that’s certainly not true of most Christians.

          • Edward Detian Liu

            “So if I oppose abortion because I think it ends a human life (i.e. no different from murder), that’s okay, but if I oppose abortion because my religion tells me it’s morally wrong, that’s not okay? How about theft and murder? My religion tells me those are wrong too, so let’s abolish laws prohibiting stealing and killing, right?”

            ^This did. Please read my longer replies first.

  • Doodle

    God Damn Dave. You look like my brother with that jolly fat belly. You look friendly, and maybe fun to be around, and your buddy, if it’s a she, I think I like to fuck her, at least once. Put me on your mailing list to recieve updates, because I’m not seeing an email newletter, and I am so antichrist and antichristian. I have to say God Damn the Holy Ghost first thing in the morning and all day long, and at night I say Now I lay me down to sleep I pray the lord my soul you’ll never keep. If I die before I wake I pray the lord my shit you’ll eat. Hee Haw

    • Horace Hogsnort

      Hey Doodle, stop being so shy about your lack of religious fervor!

    • Edward Detian Liu

      I’m hoping this is a troll for a variety of reasons.

  • Aristarchus

    “Alcohol sales are prohibited in many areas on Sundays or after certain hours, a prohibition with no secular backing whatsoever.”

    While I would agree the Sunday prohibition has no secular reasoning I always understood the “after certain hours” prohibitions to be based on some type of cooling off theory. Understanding that your average drinker might start drinking after working hours or later in the day after other commitments had been dispatched, the midnight or two o’clock sales stoppage would be put in place to enforce a consumption limit with the hope of reducing the number of people who are severely intoxicated and some of the problems associated with that. Whether it has this effect or not I don’t claim to know but I always assumed this was the reasoning behind it.

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