The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected challenges to laws in Maryland and Indiana that recognize Good Friday as a legal holiday. The justices, without comment, declined to review appellate court rulings in both cases. At least 14 states have made Good Friday a legal holiday, but only three—Maryland, North Dakota, and Illinois—mandate that all schools close on that day. Others, such as Indiana, give state employees the day off. 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.In the Maryland case, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the long weekend has a legitimate purpose: avoiding high absenteeism among students and teachers on the days before Easter. Similarly, the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found in the Indiana case that "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."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," Donohue says.

Related Elsewhere

See the Associated Press's coverage of the Indiana and Maryland casesRead the Appeals Courts' decisions for the Indiana and Maryland decisions (The Supreme Court did not comment on either case.)The Indiana Department of Education's Web site provides some background information on the case.