Council for Secular Humanism

Get Active!

Sign up to receive CSH emails and Action Alerts

Donate online
to support CSH

Free Inquiry

Subscribe for the
Internet price of
only $19.97

Renew your

back issues

Visit our
online library

Shop Online

What's New?


Introduction to
Secular Humanism

Council for
Secular Humanism

CSH Organizations

The Center for Inquiry

Paul Kurtz

Speaker's Bureau

Humanist Hall of Fame

Web Columns
and Feedback

Find a Secular Humanist
Group Near You

Field Notes:
Council Activities
Around the Nation

Worldwide Index of
Humanist Groups

Humanism on TV

Freethought Alliance


for Humanism

International Academy
of Humanism

Secular Organizations
for Sobriety



Contact Info

Site Map




Suit Targets School Holiday Closings

by Tom Flynn

The following article is from the Secular Humanist Bulletin, Volume 15, Number 4.

In my 1993 book, The Trouble With Christmas, I predicted that conflicts over public school observance of religious holidays would grow more numerous—and more complex—as a result of increasing religious diversity in American life. Ultimately, I suggested, Christmas might outlive its usefulness as a universal and compulsory public winter holiday.

Christmas is in no danger yet, but the first salvo of the conflict I predicted has been fired in a Cincinnati, Ohio, suburb. Acting on behalf of Hindu and Muslim parents, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has sued the Sycamore Community School District, demanding an end to its recently enacted policy of closing for the Jewish High Holy Days.

Seven years ago, Jewish parents asked the school district why schools closed for Good Friday but not for the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. (Greater Cincinnati has one of the largest Jewish minority populations in the Midwest.) When the school board instituted the requested closing, Hindu and Muslim parents objected, demanding like treatment for the feast days of their religions. First they petitioned, then they sued. Now the ACLU has. "If you're going to give a holiday to the Jews, you ought to give holidays to the Muslims, to the Hindus, to the Buddhists, to the Sikhs, and that is impractical," a Muslim parent told the media.

The suit seeks to bar school closings on the feast days of any minority religion, arguing that Judaism does not merit special treatment denied to other minority faiths. The school district contends that its motives are practical, not religious; in the years before the closings, some 15% of the district's more than 6,200 students would be absent on High Holy Days, a number educators consider disruptive to school operation.

Cincinnati has become a flashpoint for religious holiday issues. A Jewish attorney in that city brought a suit challenging the federal government's policy of closing on Christmas; now religiously devout non-Judeo-Christians (the group I dubbed "The New Outsiders" in my book) have taken up the cudgels against favoritism that benefits a longer-established minority religion. This year, the Christian Coalition may win a few cases about prayer at football games. In the long run, I still think we as a society will come to realize that religion is simply too hot for government to handle at all.

Tom Flynn is Coordinator of the First Amendment Task Force for the Council for Secular Humanism.

news.gif (359 bytes) Join to Receive the Secular Humanist Bulletin

back.gif (1144 bytes) Secular Humanism Online Library


This page was last updated 12/04/2003

Copyright notice:  The copyright for the contents of this web site rests with the Council for Secular Humanism.  
You may download and read the documents.  Without permission, you may not alter this information, repost it, or sell it. 
If you use a document, you are encouraged to make a donation to the Council for Secular Humanism.