New Jersey School District Grapples With Demand For Official Holiday For Eid al-Adha

SchoolClassroomThere is a new conflict over religious rights in public education in New Jersey where Muslim families demanded an official holiday for Eid al-Adha. The meeting erupted when the school board refused to create such a holiday just six days before Eid al-Adha, which would have required thousands to families to scramble to find accommodations for their children. It also raises the slippery slope of adopting some religious holidays and not others. For example, the Jewish community noted that their families do not have official holidays for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The confrontations raises the question of why public schools should create religious holidays as opposed to giving students excused absences for such holidays, which New Jersey does.

One Muslim mother is heard declaring that “We’re going to be the majority soon!” That comment embodies the very point cited by both supporters and critics. On one hand, the community is calling for the simple recognition of a dominant religious holiday in this community. They insist that community control over schools means that large segments of the population should be accommodated on such question. Moreover, this was not such a controversy, they suggest, when the holidays were Christian.

On the other hand, critics insist that it is not about the majority getting what it wants in terms of elevating their own religious holidays over others. Indeed, the first amendment is designed first and foremost to protect minorities from majoritarian discrimination. There are also the entanglement issues raised by certain religious holidays being favored over others. Unless one adopts the “majority is always right” to impose a favored religion, the school would have to recognize holidays for Christians, Jews, Buddhists and other faiths.

For many of us, it makes better constitutional and practical sense to allow excused absences. Of course, this leaves the issue of “Christmas” holidays. However, those holidays are increasingly disassociated with Christianity and rarely are called “Christmas” holiday. Instead, the holiday comes at the end of the year and is carried through the New Year. Easter holidays are virtually gone and even “Halloween parties” have been reconfigured as “Harvest celebrations” to avoid even attenuated reference to anything religious.

What is interesting is that various leaders including Jewish leaders expressed an interest in adding the holiday for next year. Rabbi Debra Hachen of Jersey City’s Temple Beth-El, the city’s largest Jewish congregation, said “I personally plan to offer my assistance to the Muslim community to bring this up during the school year so that it can be discussed and considered fully in time to be incorporated into next year’s school calendar. Our community is fully in support of religious freedom of expression and understands the desire of our Muslim friends and neighbors to have the schools closed for Eid El-Adha.” It is a position that raises the issue of accommodation of other faiths and whether this is simply a question of the majority religion in a given district.

The controversy in New Jersey is illustrative of a common view that religious freedom means the right to impose religious values supported by the majority. The Kim Davis controversy reflects that same claim of entitlement in an official insisting that she has a right to impose her religious litmus test in carrying out ministerial functions as a clerk. The classic civil libertarian position is that true religious freedom is protected by neutrality by the government. The fear is that this all becomes little more than a muscle play. The insular minorities of yesterday become the dominant majorities of today.

Yet, in fairness to those calling for this holiday, The city has already established this holiday and Diwali as city holidays. Dawali is the Indian festival of lights. One can argue that schools are part of communities and can accommodate and recognize the holidays that are most important to those communities. After all, if the vast majority of students are taking leave for the holidays, it is argued that it makes more sense to simply declare a holiday for everyone.

It is a fascinating line to draw, though from a constitutional standpoint there is always unease in the government enforcing a holiday tied to a particular religion. This has long been the case with Christian holidays but, as discussed above, those official holidays were long contested on separation grounds.

What do you think?

106 thoughts on “New Jersey School District Grapples With Demand For Official Holiday For Eid al-Adha”

  1. forgot, There was a need for private unions. But public unions are just cash cows for Dem politicians and have NEVER been needed. After the coming bloodbath in the 2016 elections, look for public unions go down like they have in my beloved Wisconsin.

  2. philly, I love it when you talk down to me, it’s so liberal and kinda hot. LOL! And, I see middle school show and tell has started. I grew up in a blue collar union family. Both my parents were factory workers. They saw union fat leaders lie cheat and steal them blind. They saw unions protect the worthless workers that should be fired. They saw union dues go to politicians they hated. There’s a reason unions are pretty much dead. They shot themselves in the gut. And, a gut wound is the worst. Your beloved govt. has ample rules and regulations to protect workers. They make unions superfluous. “Be careful what you wish for.”

  3. Free markets only ever work when power is in balance. Unions provide that balance and it is only because of unions that we have any middle class at all in the US. The success of our economy is the history of the union. Solidarity forever!

  4. Government worker unions are unconstitutional.

    Government employment was intended to be SERVICE by SERVANTS, not wealth generation by profiteers.

    Government is never the place for greed, profit and enrichment – profiteering from the obligations of taxpayers.


    No military in the world would ever be unionized and ALL governmental organizations should function in the same methodology as the military. Government function is standard operation and repetition not invention, innovation, financial risk and wealth creation.

    Government workers should be fired simply for demanding unionization.

    Working conditions for any and all government workers have never been intolerable or problematic. “Comparable pay” is a scam on the taxpayer. The only wage that exists is the wage required to obtain a workforce. Any workforce is “good enough for government work.”

    GREED is the sole obsession of lazy greedy striking teachers unions and lazy, greedy, prima donna nurse unions. They know they don’t deserve the ridiculous levels of taxpayer dollars they receive.

    The striking teachers succeed at a rate of about 70% and their product includes fork lift drivers and dental assistants. Educational requirements, including advanced degrees are not necessary to teach and not utilized or effective in the classroom. Talented teachers are born, not “educated.” A high school education and teaching certificate, THAT TAXPAYERS HAVE ALREADY PAID FOR, are the only educational prerequisites necessary to teach in public schools.

    Those deserving, striking union nurses have a really tough time in the terrible working conditions of air conditioned hospitals while they conjure up enough intellectual capacity and fortitude to give a patient a flu shot. Seriously? Nurses actually have to co—–s to go on strike. They should be embarrassed. Really. Nurses average $66K per year plus benefits just because they can administer shots – no just because they can go on strike.

    No law should allow government workers to unionize and strikes should effect immediate removal.

    No law should exist that supports worker strikes. Strikers should risk jobs without government support.

    No law should exist that prevents businesses from firing strikers and hiring replacement workers.

    1. “No military in the world would ever be unionized and ALL governmental organizations should function in the same methodology as the military. ”

      Actually, I believe some European military organizations are in fact unionized. They still seem to fight effectively.

      While some agencies of the US government are organized – maybe parts of NOAH for one, most agencies perform functions and are organized more like modern corporations. It is hard for me to see what would be gained by enforcing military discipline on the civilian parts of the government.

      The point of unionization is to give workers bargaining power to ensure a reasonable standard of living. Pretty hard to complain about that. Also very hard to against the right of workers to organize to control the supply of their labor – just like stock holder cooperate to form corporations to control the supply of good and services.

      Finally if you see a long term strike that prevents needed services from being performed then you should blame the union.

      If you see a labor contract that you think is too generous then you should blame management. Management has all the control to sign a contract or reject the contract. Management is the guardian of sustainable labor agreements . If the management class sells out the interests of citizens by signing a bum contract that is a management incentive problem. The solution to bad labor contracts is to change the rewards to management.

  5. These are acts based on foreign allegiances and are acts of subversion and treason compelling immediate deportation of these parasitic fraudulent “asylum seeking” pseudo refugees. All any of these illegal frauds should ever be allowed are temporary “guest worker” passes.

  6. Nick, read up on the charter schools in Ohio and tell me what a success they are. They lie, cheat and steal. So unless those are values you espouse, which I don’t think they are, please educate yourself on charter schools.

  7. You’re a little old to be having your teeth straightened. Well, the pricing model and the thought of spittle flying out between crooked teeth has changed my mind.

  8. I charge $100-175/hr. I don’t take insurance, and need a retainer if I don’t know you.

  9. Privatize education and pay teachers ON MERIT. The better you are, the more you make. No union rats need apply.

  10. Charter schools are some of the only successes in this country. Hotsy Totsy I smell a teacher’s union member. They’re about the only people opposed to charter schools. That list by philly could have been comprised by a long gone weekend blogger here who was a hopeless union slug.

  11. Issac and philly,
    I too wonder why anyone should listen to a person who plays a psychologist on blog comments sections.

  12. PhillyT

    There is one more thing you could add and this applies to a few other problems unique to the US. Take a look at the systems that work, the systems in the top third of the world’s education systems. Then get off of the American only nonsense and learn from success. The US enjoys the lofty spot at the top of the bottom third. Add, too many administrations, and the sacred need for micro managing everything at every level.

    Visit another country that is doing much better and copy their system. Or, too proud, too much ego, or too bought and paid for?

  13. Each student and teacher should be given a certain number of holidays they may claim as their own. They would take those holidays and report to schools for the other days. Non religious persons could claim whatever they wish, within the parameter that it is an equal number to what the others get.

    Public schools are in decline because:
    -parents don’t read to their kids any more and expect the teachers to babysit.
    -teacher colleges got off course with their curricula
    -teacher salaries are too low to attract the best and brightest
    -private and charter schools are lying cheating criminal enterprises that rip off the public trust, boot bad and disabled students out of their schools and cheat on state tests
    -distribution of school tax money is corrupt to its very core.

    I say get rid of ALL private and charter schools. Equalize per-pupil dollars across the board based on local cost-of-living dollars. Make everyone, including and especially the rich send their children to public school–they would fix the schools overnight.

  14. I heard that Christ was actually born in June or July not in December. So move Xmas to the summer time when kids are on break.
    Next the Muslims will want all boy classes. And only Muslim teachers.

    And they will soon be claiming that Obama is a Muslim and owes them some favors to achieve such things. What church does Barry go to? A Muslim could not attend a Christian church and get away with it.

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