The city of Naples, Florida has an ordinance that bans mowing your lawn and trimming your trees on certain days of the year: New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
The reason is that those are holidays when people are celebrating the holiday with friends and family — and the noise from lawn care might disturb those gatherings. Makes sense. Those are federal holidays. No big deal.
But the city is now considering adding Easter Sunday to that list, and that would be unconstitutional since it’s basically saying everyone needs to be quiet on a Christian holy day (that isn’t a federal or state holiday).
“I think it’s more out of courtesy and respect,” said Naples Mayor Bill Barnett. “You know Easter Sunday, you don’t want you next door neighbor cutting his tree down or whatever he’s going to do with it, trimming it or making noise.”
The Council member who researched the issue and raised his concerns at the [February 1] meeting was right to do so. He correctly pointed out the difference between Christmas and Easter, in that Christmas is a recognized Federal holiday, thus allowing the ordinance to be in effect.
Additionally, a second Council member correctly points out that different denominations of Christianity celebrate Easter on different days. This concern went unaddressed, which both signals that the Council is only addressing the concerns of one sect of Christianity and the ordinance serves no secular purpose.
The principle is simple — government may not provide certain religions or religious sects with protections that infringe upon the rights of others. While the city is welcome to prohibit lawn maintenance and tree trimming on all Sundays, there is no secular purpose for an accommodation like the one proposed by the City.
City officials would likely not change their plans to prohibit maintenance on Sundays, since there are a lot of workers in the city who make money by providing these services. The more days listed under the ban, the less money they make. It’d be bad for the city. The days that are currently prohibited are more than enough.
But it’s up to them to decide whether they want to risk a lawsuit just to appease some Christians in the area.
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