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Government Observances of Good Friday & Easter

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Although making Christian holy days like Good Friday an official government holiday is a practice often accepted as a matter of course in the past, recently more and more people have begun to object to what they perceive as unfair favoritism being shown towards Christianity and Christian beliefs. Because of this, they are challenging the practice of accommodating Christian beliefs in ways not generally accepted for the beliefs of other religions — but with mixed results.

Should Government Observe Good Friday & Easter?

Do state and local laws or policies which create holidays on Good Friday violate the separation of church? Is there a case to be made that making Good Friday a public or school holiday is unconstitutional, or is there a secular purpose behind making Good Friday an official holiday? Indeed, is Good Friday still a religious holiday anymore or has it become a secular holiday? Christians argue that government should be able to make Good Friday an official public holiday, but others are pushing back.

State of the Law for Good Friday Holidays

Where does the law currently stand with regards to official government observances of the Christian holy days of Good Friday and Easter? What are governments allowed and not allowed to do? What are schools allowed to do and what rights to students have? It's helpful to know the answers to these questions as well as what the case law is because you might confront constitutionally suspect actions by local school boards, school administrations, and city councils.

Bridenbaugh v. O'Bannon (1993)

According to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, a government is permitted to give employees a religious holiday off as a paid vacation day, but only if the government can provide a legitimate secular purpose for choosing that day instead of any other day.

Metzl v. Leininger (1995)

According to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Illinois' policy of making Good Friday a school holiday when schools would be closed but teacher paid anyway was unconstitutional because there was no larger secular purpose involved and, hence, the holiday amounted to favoritism towards one religion over others.

Koenick v. Felton (1999)

According to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, schools can close for Good Friday and Easter because such closings serve the secular purpose of saving money when many students would not be around anyway.

Granzeier v. Middleton (1999)

According to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, government offices can close for Good Friday and Easter so long as they have a legitimate secular purpose, for example a desire to accommodate the travel plans of employees.

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