Cut Loose! Arkansans Can Get Footloose on Sundays

City officials repeal a dancing ban.



An Arkansas town has abolished a 65-year-old ordinance, often referred to as the Footloose law, that was aimed at preventing public dancing on Sundays.

Until its recent revocation, Sec. 14-91 of Fort Smith's municipal code required that dance halls and other businesses that allow dancing stay closed on Sundays. Initially signed into law by Mayor H.R. Hestand in 1953, the ordinance suggested that Sunday dancing "greatly endangers the public health, safety and welfare." The ban followed the trend of other blue laws, which ban activities such as hunting and horse racing on Sundays.

The ordinance was reminiscent of the 1984 movie Footloose, which is set in a small Oklahoma town where dancing on Sundays is forbidden. While the dancing ban in the movie is strictly enforced, Fort Smith officials said there is no record of an arrest or fine under their ordinance.

"If you don't care to dance on Sunday, that's fine," said City Director Andre Good, who headed efforts to repeal the ordinance. "We should all respect that. But let's not impose some outdated, outmoded morality code on all our fine fellow citizens."

Good hoped the fight against the dancing ordinance would lead to reconsideration of other outmoded laws. With that in mind, city leaders unanimously agreed to dissolve seven of the 34 commissions, boards, and committees that were believed to be outdated, including the Massard Prairie Civil War Battlefield Park Advisory Commission, the Oak Cemetery Commission, the Outside Agency Review Panel, the Parking Authority, the Residential Housing Facilities Board, the Riverfront Task Force, and the Streets Bridges and Associated Drainage Capital Improvements Plan Advisory Committee.

Bonus link: Reason's previous coverage on dancing ordinances and bans in Arizona, Ohio, California, and Washington, D.C.