Mopping Up Maneuvers Called For With Good Friday Victory (November 1997)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is monitoring renewed challenges to its victorious lawsuit challenging “Good Friday” as an official state holiday in Wisconsin.

One Wisconsin county is considering restoring Good Friday as a permanent paid holiday, by simply changing the name to “Spring Holiday” or “Friday before Easter” holiday.

La Crosse County, on the Mississippi River, has been asked by the Foundation’s attorney, under the open records law, for copies of any records relating to the designation of Good Friday as a County holiday or to the consideration by the county of possible changes in its policy.

U.S. District Judge John Shabaz ruled in 1996, in a case brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, that Wisconsin’s longstanding Good Friday law was unconstitutional. Shabaz agreed with the Foundation and its plaintiffs that the holiday law violated the First Amendment by favoring Christianity over other religions or no religion.

In an action earlier this year, the Foundation had challenged the announced intentions of Ozaukee County to violate the ruling. The county eventually settled, paying most of the Foundation’s legal expenses in that lawsuit. The Foundation also was reimbursed by the State for major expenses of the original lawsuit.

The Foundation has suggested substituting a floating holiday chosen by the individual employee.

“A floating holiday fully protects the rights of government employees who wish to observe Good Friday as a religious holiday,” wrote Attorney Jeff Kassel to La Crosse County officials, “while avoiding the unconstitutional establishment of religion that results when a governmental body establishes a purely religious holiday as an official holiday.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation