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What would happen if no one followed the rules on Halloween?

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By Steve Doyle

There is a perfect costume for this Halloween, and it has nothing to do with politics, movies or the sprite-of-the-moment spiffery.

This Sunday, simply slip into a pair of striped pajamas – broad, horizontal, black-and-white stripes, preferably – and go ring a doorbell for trick or treat.

You not only will be dressing the part of a Scofflaw, but you will be playing it, too.

If you’re not conversant with the Websters, a scofflaw is someone who openly ignores stated laws.

And if you trick or treat on Sunday, you will – at least in the City of Shelbyville – be a lawbreaker of the highest order.

You see, Shelbyville has an ordinance that says it’s illegal to trick-or-treat on Halloween when it falls on a Sunday.

Shelby County and Simpsonville have joined in, though there is some evidence that County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger and Mayor Steve Eden may have hedged their bets a bit.

So as it stands, you could trick-or-treat Sunday in Simpsonville or unincorporated Shelby County, but you better keep those jagged city limits maps handy in case you cross a block and stray into the forbidden zone of the city.

We haven’t heard from Shelbyville Police Chief Robert Schutte about how many officers and overtime dollars will be required to police all streets and fight this heinous crime.

It’s a huge job, dozens of miles, but the public has to be protected.

Does all that strike you as outrageous, that a government entity can – and would – legislate when and how we celebrate a secular holiday?

Is that government’s role? Is it Constitutionally appropriate? Maybe we should put this before Donna Dutton and Darby Smith before Election Day?

What’s next, no caroling on Dec. 20, if that falls on a Thursday when the city council would meet?

How about no football or parades on Thanksgiving (though we believe more would give up the turkey and keep the pigskin)? After all, Thanksgiving was founded as a religious observance.

It all smells a bit like the Burgermeister Meisterburger is in charge.

On Halloween we used to be worried about razor blades in apples or LSD in caramel corn.

Now we worry that children will walk down sidewalks in costumes before dark on a day that the city forbids them to do so.

We understand that Shelby County is a richly religious predominantly protestant county.

We understand that some believers do not feel that Halloween meshes with the Gospel. We appreciate that, we really do.

But we also notice that many churches have and will have their own “Trunk Or Treat” festivals in the next few days, some of them are scheduled to allow for the kids to do a bit of streetwalking, too.

And then there’s Finchville Baptist, which seems to have no problem celebrating on Sunday, because that’s when its Trunk or Treat is scheduled. The Methodists in Downtown Shelbyville are doing the same thing.

OK, I’m clear on the safety of children and their being in the streets at night and our communities wanting to preserve that, but haven’t we been navigating those for, oh, a century?

We already have the advantage of a later start for Standard Time, meaning it’s not really dark until after the 7 p.m. curfew.

Haven’t we advanced in the markings and illumination in our neighborhoods that sometimes appear filled with as many adults as children?

In many places I’ve lived for the past few decades, there certainly appeared to be as many grown-ups on the street as tricksters. Since when are private escorts required?

Many residents sit out in their yards, on their porches and in their driveways, some sipping beer and wine (is that legal?), and handing out candy to every kid who ventures up.

So much for the old doorbell surprise. And that in itself is sad.

There was a day when we knew every neighbor and wanted to surprise that person with your costume, whether you were a hobo in your dad’s old clothes, a ghost in a cutup old sheet or simply a cowboy, because the attire was handy and durable.

In those days, we selected our boundaries and hit every house that had its lights on or until our parents showed up and called their curfew, which thankfully was later than 7 p.m. and very deep into candy consumption.

The adults in most houses were too cold and tired to be outside.

And speaking of the houses: What happened to the designated scary house in each neighborhood. We don’t mean one playing eerie sounds or with a moving spider on the roof.

We’re talking something ancient, creepy, creaky and crevice-y, like the Remshaw Place in that wonderful episode of The Andy Griffith Show.

Yeah, there have been some pranks. Yes, some of them have been serious.

But if you didn’t get the treat, weren’t you supposed to do the trick? Wasn’t that the entire premise?

Now Halloween is all about doing things at a certain time, in a certain way, following the rules of the government and not the intent of a fun holiday.

So now that we’ve given up our Constitutional right to assemble and move door-to-door on a day and time of our choosing, maybe we should invoke another principle of our Founding Fathers and just go out there and trick-or-treat anyway.

And you adults who don’t like the door-to-door thing have an option: Just turn on your porch light and have a bowl of candy by the door.

Surely you would be guilty of aiding and abetting.