Koenick v. Felton: Public Holiday at Easter not Religious Establishment

Koenick v. Felton: Public Holiday at Easter not Religious Establishment

Koenick v. Felton

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Decided: Koenick v. Felton — The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rules that there is no impermissible establishment of religion in creating a public holiday at the same time as the Christian holy day of Good Friday.

The most important part of the Court's reasoning is that the schools closings serve a secular purpose of saving money and maintaining the school's effectiveness in the face of a high rate of absenteeism on these holidays.

Judge Ervin writes in the majority opinion:

"The Board contends that closing schools on the Friday before and the Monday after Easter is necessary because of the high rate of absenteeism expected on these days among students and teachers.

Such absences, it argues, disrupt the effectiveness of instruction and require an increased monetary outlay for the hiring of substitute teachers, wasting valuable and limited educational resources. Bolstering its argument, the Board insists that this is the same reason it closes schools on the Jewish holidays of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. ...

This statutory four-day holiday around Easter has been a part of the Montgomery County Public School Calendar for 130 years. It has become part of the school community's expectations and plans, and ... it is also the anchor around which the longer spring vacation is scheduled . ...

By expressing no preference toward the practitioners of any one faith over any other, the four-day holiday around Easter does not endorse or advance a particular religion or religion generally."

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