That headline’s not a joke. From now on, students will get a day off of school on World Humanist Day, which takes place on June 21. It’s now considered a holiday similar to Yom Kippur and Eid al-Fitr… at least for school children. (Humanist adults will still be expected to go to work.)
The decision means Berlin pupils who subscribe to humanism — a philosophy that rejects the existence of deities — can apply for a day off to celebrate their belief in the same way as Christians, Muslims and Jews do for their holy days.
Arik Platzek, a spokesman for Germany’s Humanist Association, said Wednesday the decision “is a positive signal and a good example.”
He says it will be the first sanctioned holiday for humanists in any of Germany’s 16 states “and as far as we know worldwide.”
But wait! Isn’t that summer? Sneaky bastards…
Nope. School is in session in June. (However, World Humanist Day next year happens to fall on a Sunday. So joke’s on us.)
The holiday — if you can call it that — came about after a Humanist mother tried to excuse her child from school that day a couple of years ago. The child’s teacher, however, marked him down as an “unexcused absence” — a black mark for any student — and that led to a court battle that found the teacher was in the right.
Berlin education Senator Sandra Scheeres has now made World Humanist Day a holiday in the city to avoid controversies like this in the future. Because German states have the right to set their own school holidays, Scheeres (as Senator for Education) had the power to do that by herself, without approval of, say, a city council.
There is a caveat, though. If you want the day off, you have to prove you’re a member of a group like the country’s Humanist Association. Religious people don’t have to prove they belong to a particular church, though.
(Thanks to Michael for his help and Georg for the link)