Lawmakers are scrambling to rewrite Massachusetts's religious holidays law after the state's highest court declared it unconstitutional.

In August, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld the dismissal of two Christians who refused to work on Christmas in 1992 at their betting-clerk jobs at a local dog track.

In overturning a law that allowed employees not to work on religious holidays, the judges in a 4-to-3 decision said the law granted an improper protection to organized religions and obligated judges to sort through religious doctrine, violating the constitutional separation of church and state.

Both U.S. Sen. John Kerry and Republican Gov. William Weld—who are in a hotly contested Senate race—have made the case a campaign issue by proposing differing laws that would protect the jobs of religiously observant workers, answer the court's constitutional objections, and shield business owners from unreasonable employee demands.

Fired clerks Kathleen Pielech and Patricia Reed, members of the same Roman Catholic parish in suburban Boston, say they are prepared to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Pielech says the racetrack owner who fired her is also Catholic and sees nothing wrong with working on Christmas.

"He's missing the point," Pielech says. "That's his choice. That's not my choice."

Last Updated: October 10, 1996

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