Religious Freedom and Holidays

Here is another post that is important for Christians to read, because it brings up something that many Christians just never consider. Yesterday’s post over at The Wild Hunt got me to thinking about accommodation of religious holidays in the workplace and how we tend to deal with that in our society.

Think about the way we treat holidays in our society at large.  Only Christian holidays are official, national, government holidays.  The banks close, the stock market closes, the government shuts down for these holidays, and everybody is pretty much forced to stay home and take the day off, regardless of whether they are observing the holiday.  Most people don’t think about this or question it at all.  Of course we’re closed for Christmas and Good Friday.  It’s just taken for granted.

It is so taken for granted that it even applies to majority non-Christian companies.  My first full-time job was with a Jewish law firm.  All of the partners and most of the associates were Jewish, along with a sprinkling of the support staff.  Attorneys would regularly take trips to Israel and bring us back presents.  Observances of holidays like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur were obvious, the men showing up to work in yarmulkes, subtle differences in behavior.  But you’ll note that they did come in to work, even though by strict Jewish law they should not have.  The firm did not close, even though most of them were celebrating these holidays.  The firm did, however, close on Christmas and Good Friday.

That is how ingrained these Christian holidays have become in our culture. Even non-Christians feel compelled to observe them, if only by closing their businesses.  What does that say about freedom of religion, true freedom?

Some types of business will give the excuse that they close because the government is closed, or the stock market is closed.  I’m sorry, but there is still work that can be done on those days.  When the Patent Office closed on a regular business day, we used the time that we couldn’t officially file documents to clean up the file room, take classes to update our knowledge of patent law, work on the servers, etc.  It was a slower day, but there was certainly still work to do, and we were still expected to show up.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to abolish federal recognition of holidays, and just let people take off for the holidays they observe? Have a designated number of holidays that each person can take off, no questions asked, and ask for requests to be made for holidays at the beginning of each calendar year.  That way, the company can plan for days when the majority of their workers will be home, and move work flow around to accommodate absences. Christians can take off their holidays, Jews can have theirs, Wiccans can have ours, everybody can be happy.  The holidays would be truly “no questions asked,” so if you don’t want to observe any holidays or you’re atheist, then you can pick any days you want, your kids’ birthdays or Texas Independence Day or anything else.

Then we can save the government holidays for things that are government-related, like Independence Day and Memorial Day.

Published by solinox

I am a Wiccan priestess, a libertarian mother of triplets plus three, a wife and homeschooling mom to blind and autistic children, a fiber artist, and a Jane of All Trades, always learning and seeking to help.

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  1. I had never experienced Good Friday as a work holiday until I moved to the Midwest. It still confuses me.

    In Seattle, I never had any employer give me grief about or disallow swapping Christmas (the only religious holiday any of my employers offered) for Yule. Other holy days I wanted off, I used my PTO to cover. Of course, that assumes the privilege of *having* PTO, and enough salary that unpaid time off wasn’t an issue. Not something I ever did when I was working in retail, let me tell you.

    One of the reasons I can see for a standardised holiday calendar is the public school system. Some faiths have many holy days, others have far fewer. I would imagine that a “no officially-recognised holidays, but you can take whichever eight or ten days per year you like” stance would play merry hell (see what I did there?) with keeping students in sync. Of course, in terms of religious observances, the only ones I can think of straight off that schools give are spring and winter breaks. The rest are political, aren’t they? Like Presidents Day, Columbus Day, and the like?

    1. Winter Break in schools is pretty generic, as well as Spring Break, which doesn’t always coincide with either Ostara or Easter. The holidays are more of an issue with businesses, where it’s a day here and a day there, usually following the government official holiday list…which includes the Christian days.

      Mason HS actually has a pretty awesome policy that would accommodate everybody. There is no limit on the number of absences a student can have, and they don’t distinguish between excused and unexcused (although they obviously prefer to be notified in advance when possible). The only rule is that a passing grade is normally 65, but becomes 70 or 75 if you have 7 or more absences in a trimester. This is fine with me because I expect better than that anyway, and means that we can pull Brenden for occasional field trips, or even Sabbats if we wanted to.

  2. In many jobs, this idea could work. In some, though … For example, a production line: It takes all 5 (or all 25) to get the job done. Too much random absence means that the substitutes will be much less competent at the particular task, and production suffers. Also, many employers have experimented with flextime and found that it works well for ‘asynchronous’ work — say, where you put in hours of solo work and then submit a written report via e-mail — but badly for ‘group project’ work. Hard to build a bridge if the foreman and the architect have different holidays.

    That said, I personally would love to see all the religious holidays fall out of the calendar — or let each religion pick its most important ONE or TWO days and put ALL of them in the ‘public secular’ calendar.

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