Dare to Ask: Shouldn't all religions get days off?
By Phillip Milano
The Florida Times-Union
Should all religions have specific days off school and work for their holy
days or holidays? -- Christy, 20, Tunkhannock, Penn.
It seems that would be fair. Why should some religions get their holidays off
and not others? But we'd never get anything done if we did it that way. Some
holy days are Saturday, others on Sunday, and even on Thursday. My holy days are
full moons, dark moons and seasonal changes and cross-quarters. But many holy
days don't need the whole day off. Sounds like a mess to me! -- Jamie, 23,
female, Bellingham, Wash.
This is supposed to be a country with freedom of religion, but it seems the
only ones who get noticed are those who celebrate some sort of Christian
religion. I feel we should acknowledge all or none. -- Heather, 31, West
At my workplace, in addition to recognizing most federal holidays, we are
given two personal holidays we can take at any time like vacation. In my case I
can use them to attend Sabbat rituals that might have been difficult to attend
otherwise. -- Chris, Wiccan, Seattle
It would make sense, since we have Christmas off, but then there would be too
many days off for all of the holidays, and the students' education might suffer.
-- Michael W., Chicago
What if you worshiped Al Seckel and John Edwards, creators of that
fish-with-feet ichthys parody symbol that has the word "Darwin" in the middle of
it? You could put in for a day off to practice your non-belief belief.
And under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, your employer may need
to make a minimal, reasonable effort to accommodate your religious beliefs. The
tricky part is trying to determine what "reasonable" is, said Charles Haynes,
senior scholar for The First Amendment Center in Washington, D.C.
"An employer can say, 'Well this is going to cost me some money' or 'I can't
find a replacement,' " he said. "Under current law, apparently that could be
enough for the employer to not have to accommodate."
Some religious holidays like Christmas eventually became national holidays
for secular reasons, because trying to run a business on a day when almost no
one shows up for work wouldn't be practical. Now they're grandfathered in on the
Similarly, if a community has a huge Jewish population, its school district
might shut down on Yom Kippur because the schools wouldn't be able to function
with so many people staying home.
"A rule of thumb is that school officials should give students who are
Christian, Muslim, etc., a reasonable number of excused absences for religious
holidays, as long as the request doesn't interfere with the education of the
child," Haynes said.
And as long as it's sincere.
"If a kid says 'I'm a Math Atheist' like they did in the 'Calvin and Hobbes'
comic strip, that's not going to fly," he said.
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Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
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