Category: Opinion

Opinion letters
by Various Authors

Tracing the evolution of the popular misconception that any connection between God or any religious event is a violation of a Constitutional guarantee against mixing any evidence of religion in any state supported institution or event.

The Supreme Court rules to support an Indiana holiday

The story:

Court Backs Indiana on Good Friday

.c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - Indiana's designation of Good Friday as a state holiday survived a Supreme Court challenge today.

The justices, without comment, allowed the state to continue giving its employees that day off, a practice begun in 1941. They rejected an appeal that said the holiday designation violates the constitutionally required separation of church and state.

Today's denial of review was not a surprise. The court in January rejected a challenge to a Maryland law that requires the annual closing of all public schools on Good Friday.

An Indiana taxpayer, Russell Bridenbaugh of Bloomington, contended that his state's practice improperly advances or promotes the Christian religion.

Good Friday, always two days before Easter, is the Christian holiday that commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus. But lower courts ruled that Indiana officials have several legitimate, non-religious reasons for treating that day as an annual holiday.

Lawyers for Bridenbaugh told the court that at least 14 other states have laws making all or part of Good Friday a legal holiday. They are California, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

Some of those laws have been struck down after being challenged in court.

After Bridenbaugh sued in 1997, a federal magistrate threw out the case without a trial. A three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal last July, by a 2-1 vote.

A separate panel of that same appeals court previously had struck down the Illinois law that provided for school closings on each Good Friday.

Indiana's main purpose in designating the state holiday is to provide a long spring weekend, the appeals court panel found.

``Indiana does not celebrate the religious aspects of Good Friday; for Indiana, the holiday has absolutely no religious significance. To Indiana, Good Friday is nothing but a Friday falling in the middle of the long vacationless spring - a day which employees should take off to rejuvenate themselves,'' the panel said.

The dissenting judge said the state should not be allowed to choose Good Friday as the spring holiday every year. But the two-judge majority noted that the designation gives state employees a three-day weekend ``during a time which typically involves travel, shopping, cooking and family gatherings.''

Bridenbaugh's appeal said the panel wrongly found that Good Friday has been ``secularized'' by its linkage to Easter, which for Christians commemorates Jesus' resurrection but also is associated with the Easter bunny and egg hunts.

``Good Friday is a purely religious holiday,'' the appeal contended.

The case is Bridenbaugh vs. O'Bannon, 99-812.

AP-NY-03-06-00 1012EST

This story correctly shows that the Supreme Court did not buy the argument that providing a floating holiday in Indiana that coincides with Good Friday, a major Holy day in the life of all Christian churches is against the laws of the land as protected by the U.S. Constitution.

What it does not show is that the Court made the right decision for the wrong reasons! Rather than listen to arguments that this holiday comes at a time when workers need a rest or a "Spring break", the Court should have allowed that yes, the context of the holiday is given to allow the majority of the U.S. citizens living in Indiana, who come from a heritage that "Under God" its citizens proclaim various forms of church related involvements that relate to a major Holy Day in the Christian religions of the world. However, because the day is not unique to any one church or branch of this heritage, it is not reasonable to conclude that permitting time off to allow workers the opportunity to participate in various religious services that relate to the name of the holiday is not a violation of the Constitutional ban against the State requiring individual involvement in any one church as the official religion. In other words, if such a day were only related to say the Roman Catholic Church, it would be something of a question to wonder if having the state pay people for holiday pay on such an occasion might be construed as favoring that particular church and that would be contrary to the Constitution. If the time off, in such case, were not compensated, one would wonder if such permission would constitute a violation. The same would hold true if time were allowed off for employees of the Muslim or Hebrew faiths who wanted similar released time for such purpose.

When you combine the heritage factor with the fact that the Good Friday event seems to also allow a three day weekend for all, regardless of any religious persuasion, then one can see no need to worry that this permission, which may cater a bit to a religious practice celebrated by a sizable part of the working population, is not equivalent to the Constitution founding father's idea that we wanted to avoid the kind of country found in England at the time of the revolution- one where only one church was allowed! Such has never been the case in the U.S., yet, zealots for purity of law, or atheists have a strong need to try to twist the Constitution to their peculiar ends.

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