The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected challenges to laws in Maryland and Indiana that mandate an annual school holiday on Good Friday.

At least 14 states have made Good Friday a legal holiday, but only three (Maryland, North Dakota, and Illinois) mandate closing all schools on that day. A federal appeals court has struck down the Illinois law.

The Maryland law "sends the message to non-Christians that the state finds Good Friday, and thus Christianity, to be a religion worth honoring while their religion or nonreligion is not of equal importance," says the appeal of retired teacher Judith Koenick, who is Jewish.

The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the long weekend in Maryland has a legitimate purpose: avoiding high absenteeism rates among students and teachers in the days before Easter.

Similarly, the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that "to Indiana, Good Friday is nothing but a Friday falling in the middle of the long vactionless spring—a day which employees should take off to rejuvenate themselves."

William Donohue, president of the Catholic League For Religious and Civil Rights, welcomed the high court's action but criticized the focus of the appellate court on secular rather than religious reasoning.

"It should instead have squarely faced the issue by saying that the Maryland law was accommodating—not sponsoring—a religious tradition that is grounded in our nation's history," he says.

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.

Tags:
Issue: