The school committee in Cambridge, Mass., stirred up a hornet’s nest of controversy when it voted in October to include a Muslim holiday on its academic calendar. Though not particularly controversial among local residents, this change earned the ire of Bill O’Reilly, who asked his Fox News viewers, “Are we going to give Hindus a holiday, are we going to do the Wiccan thing?”
Earlier this month, the school committee in Acton-Boxborough, a Boston suburb, voted to close its schools on a Christian holiday (Good Friday) and two Jewish holidays (Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah). In the bordering district in Harvard, Mass., the school committee voted last week to scrap religious holidays altogether.
Elsewhere across America, public school districts are wrestling with whether the First Amendment requires inclusion or exclusion when it comes to recognizing religious holy days.Should school districts reflect the growing diversity of their student bodies by including more religions’ holy days? Or does the Constitution demand that public schools exclude days off for religion altogether?