A few years ago, I received in the mail an interfaith calendar along with a letter from Boston-area chaplains urging professors to be sensitive to students who might miss class to observe a holy day. I like to think I am as sensitive as the next guy, but this calendar was so chock full of holidays””including three different Christmases””that it was nearly impossible to find an “unholy” day.
There were birthdays to celebrate””for atheist Bertrand Russell, for scientologist L. Ron Hubbard and for the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie revered by Rastafarians. There were also death days and new years days and days of feasting and fasting. Was I really supposed to excuse Mormon students on Pioneer Day? And Baha’i students on the day of the ascension of their founder, Baha’u’llah?
This hyper-inclusive calendar came to mind when New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week that the nation’s largest public-school system had decided to add two Islamic feast days, Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr, to its days off. Why stop there? Why not the winter solstice for Wiccans? Or Festivus for worshipers of Saint Seinfeld?