If HB 1444 becomes law in Oklahoma, Good Friday will become an official state holiday, giving Christians another perk from the government. The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Dustin Roberts, passed the State House this week on a 69-24 vote.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is already firing a warning shot. Unlike Christmas, they argue, there’s no way to even pretend Good Friday can be celebrated in a secular way.
Good Friday is not a “holiday” with secular trimmings. Good Friday is a Christian date commemorating the supposed crucifixion and death of Christianity’s savior god, Jesus. As such, it has no meaning for anyone but devout Christians. A lot of Christians today largely ignore Good Friday in favor of celebrating Easter, which follows two days later on a Sunday, necessitating no state holiday.
Not only would such a state law show unconstitutional preference for one religion over another and for religion over nonreligion, but it would deny citizens needed services by grinding state government to a halt.
These aren’t just words. In 1996, FFRF overturned a Wisconsin law that honored the same day by shutting down public services for several hours. In Oklahoma, it’s unclear what the ramifications of passing this law would be — would schools close? Would libraries be open?
In fact, the fiscal analysis for this legislation says “measuring any potential temporary reduction in employee productivity presents difficulties, and
the time off is not considered a financial liability.” Which is a rather convenient way to say, “Sure, public services may shut down, but math is hard, so everyone should look the other way.”
Treating a Christian holiday like something everyone ought to celebrate crosses every sort of Establishment Clause line. If Oklahoma legislators are smart — and I know that’s a big “if” — they will reject this legislation before it leads to a lawsuit.
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