The proposed legislation to repeal Minnesota's long-standing prohibition on Sunday sale of vehicles ("Sunday hours? No sale," Jan. 29) overlooks one important feature: The statutory proscription has been validated by the courts.

The Sunday restriction on sales by licensed dealers is often attacked as a concession to religious interests seeking cessation of sales on the Christian Sabbath. But that is a proven misconception.

While the measure, which has been in effect since 1957, may have roots dating back to the "blue laws" of colonial Puritan times restricting commercial activities on Sunday, the modern version of the law is not attributable to that motivation. Rather, it is derived from the movement by incipient labor organizations and allied progressive forces more than a century ago to limit abuses of workers. Restricting transactions on Sundays was viewed as a way of bringing about a less onerous 40-hour workweek.

The Minnesota law had other economic motivations, including achieving statewide uniformity and the overwhelming desire of dealers and their employees not to work on that day.

Judges in Minnesota have validated the law on multiple occasions, most recently in a ruling by the Court of Appeals in 1997, upholding a ruling of a Ramsey County District Court judge, a ruling similar to one several years earlier in Hennepin County District Court. The appellate court deemed the law "rational" and based upon "legitimate economic reasons."

Linking the proposed repeal to a similar one regarding Sunday liquor sales fails to take into account major differences between the two industries, including the more substantial resources and pool of personnel needed to operate most vehicular dealerships and the necessity for financing most of those transactions, which is not readily available for Sundays.

It might make sense, both practically and financially, to abolish the ban on Sunday liquor sales, but that does not mean that car dealers should remain open on that day.

Marshall H. Tanick is a Minneapolis attorney.