Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Make Yom Kippur a National Holiday

The secular, practical reason for Christmas to be a national holiday for is that, if it were not, large numbers of people would be taking it off anyway. The same justification has been offered and accepted by Courts for states that make Good Friday a state holiday (note: Hawaii offered only the afternoon off specifically so people could go to church, and the courts said that was too much entanglement with religion). In many big cities across America, Yom Kippur is like this. I think that for good practical reasons, it is time to make Yom Kippur a federal holiday and a holiday in a good many states. As a lawyer, I can tell you that courts often shut down, and many extensions/continuances have to be granted. Not just to avoid appearing in court, but to avoid having to file documents or meet other deadlines imposed by law. The general rule is that if a deadline falls on any weekend day or holiday, the litigant or lawyer has until the next business day to perform that act. Why not Yom Kippur? Why should ad hoc extensions have to be granted every year? At universities, there routine struggles between professors that want to give midterm exams on Yom Kippur and students who object. Private universities often have policies - why not state universities?

Also, Jewish people have to take off a personal day or a vacation day on one of the most sacred days in the Jewish calendar. They don't get time-and-a-half for working that day, if they aren't allowed to take it off. That seems unfair too.

I believe there is a difference between the government accomodating religion and endorsing or furthering religion. When a religious practice is significantly widespread as is the observance of Yom Kippur (I have gone to downtown LA from Santa Monica in 15 minutes at rush hour that day, so light is the traffic) in many areas, accomodation seems to make sense.

I believe this is a different discussion from whether state-sponsored Christmas or other religious (or quasi-religious) celebrations are appropriate. I'm not talking about having a national day of fasting or anything, or a big Torah Scroll on the grounds of the capitol or a gefilte fish hunt on the lawn of the White House.

When I was a kid in a suburb of Hartford, Connecticut, we had Yom Kippur as a school holiday. It just made sense. Otherwise, about 5%-10% of the schoolkids would have to make up lessons and everyone, including the teachers, would be inconvenienced. Given the regular occurence of snow days that invariably pushed the end of the school year back a few days, an extra planned holiday hardly mattered.


Raised By Republicans said...

Let's have all the holidays for all the religions. But lets tax churches and other religious groups at the same rate we do every other political organization.

USwest said...

Will you allow Muslims to quit work early so they can sleep until the nightly feast during Ramadan?

Dr. Strangelove said...

I think LTG has it right that this is not really about giving religious holidays recognition--it is really about just trying to handle gracefully the reality of a large number of absences.

However, the US Census bureau estimates about 6.4 million Jews in 2004. That's about 2.2% of the US population is Jewish.

There are regional differences (the highest numbers being NY at 8.4% and CA at 5.5%) of course. But even so, I find it hard to justify a Federal holiday for about 2% of the population. I'm all for extra holidays, but State holidays in NY and CA seem more sensible.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Ah, but a "federal holiday" only means it is for federal employees. State holidays are what govern most people (because they are the ones enforced by by work/hour rules). Most federal employees are in urban areas, a great many in the DC metro area.

As for Ramadan, well, I do think employers should be required to let employees *shift* their work schedules during that month. But it's not clear that the Muslim population is widespread enough or large enough to require additional holidays yet.

Dr. Strangelove said...

LTG: So... Are you agreeing with me that Yom Kippur should not be a federal holiday, but a State holiday in certain areas makes sense?

The Law Talking Guy said...


Federal employees only get off federal holidays. Basically, all other employees are governed by state holiday rules. For example, the day after Thanksgiving is a state holiday in CA, not a federal holiday. So federal employees must take personal vacation time while the rest of us get a holiday.

Because of the concentration of federal employees in areas with high Jewish populations, I believe it should be a federal holiday and (where appropriate) a state holiday.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Well, last year, I did not get the day after Thanksgiving as a holiday: I had to take a vacation day. And while MLK Day, Lincoln's Birthday, Washington's Birthday, Cesar Chavez Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day are all California state holidays, I do not get any of those days off either. So I perhaps State holidays apply only to State employees, as Federal holidays apply only to Federal employees?

There are about 2 million civilian, non-postal Federal employees, more than 90% of whom work outside Washington DC. If the justification for making Yom Kippur a national holiday is the percentage of federal employees who are Jews, we need to know that figure--and I found no statistics, unfortunately. But given the figures for individual states, 5-8% seems a reasonable upper bound. In which case, I could get behind a Yom Kippur holiday.

Now if only I could get my own employer to recognize more days!