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Holiday spiritless

Minority religions not given off for their holidays

Getting rid of mentions of any religious holidays in regards to school breaks doesn’t actually fix the problem, it just hides it.

Public schools give off for major religious holidays, families to be together, but this does not apply to minority religions’ holidays. This creates an atmosphere of intolerance, and favoritism for the majority religions in America.

America strives to create a place where all religions can worship equally. But, in the case of vacation on religious holidays, this seems to be the opposite of what they are doing.

Public schools generally give off from late December to early January. They call it winter break, a secular reason, so it does not violate the first amendment’s separation of church and state. However, they are essentially giving off for Christmas and New Year’s. That is mostly catering to Christianity.

Most public schools also give off a day for the High Holidays of Judaism, Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Again, it’s claimed to be for secular reasons, but it’s really for religious holidays. This is catering mainly to Judaism.

So where is Islam? Where are all the other minority religions? In a recent upset in Montgomery County, the Muslim community was asking to have Eid al-Adha, their major religious holiday, off as well. This would ensure that the school is not favoring one religion over another. But the schools, instead of adding in a day of vacation, just took the holiday labels off the other vacations, so instead of Rosh Hashanah, they have unspecified “vacation.”

This doesn’t solve any problems. These Muslim and other minority religion students have to choose between their religion and their schoolwork. While religious students know they have to work harder if they choose to miss school to celebrate religious holidays, it still creates a sense of imbalance. This degrades the worth of the religion that is not given off, as if it isn’t worth a vacation day.

In addition, the backlash created over this decision was huge, backlash from Muslim students, who believe they are not being treated equally. However, not all of it was directed at the school board. Some of it was directed at the Muslim community for their part in this from other religions. That they, like the Grinch, had a part in “canceling Christmas.”

This is what intolerance is. Refusal to recognize a religion equally, and then hatred toward that religion for something that was not their fault.

However, this could potentially go very far. There are many different religions in America, each with their own holidays. To give priority to all religions is problematic, but to maintain the status quo is equally problematic. So, to give off for those religions that are represented by a certain percentage of the population of the United States would be an appropriate solution.

Here at UMBC, there are many students who have to take off for their religious holidays. Esther Caplan, a sophomore architecture major who practices Judaism says that, “UMBC does it right. They don’t give off for any holidays – they just give a break between semesters, and that happens to contain Christmas and New Year’s. They’re not giving off for a holiday.” She believes this makes it fair.

But Caplan said that if the public schools are going to give off for Rosh Hashanah, they should give off for other holidays. It should be all or nothing. She also said, “I understand that when I choose to be religious I’m choosing between classes and religion, and it’s not like I can complain it’s unfair, or something.”

So for schools to just wipe the labels is pointless. The issue still remains; these religions want to be recognized as an integral part of America, and we, as Americans, have to do something, because to leave vacations as they are now fosters the very air of intolerance and favoritism that America was founded to avoid.

To read the counter argument to this piece, click here