Trial Date Set For Good Friday Lawsuit (November 1995)

Atrial date of Thursday, April 18, 1996, has been set for the Foundation’s challenge in federal court of Good Friday as a legal holiday. The lawsuit was filed in Madison, Wisconsin, on October 1. Several state employees have joined Foundation officers as plaintiffs in the challenge.

Although initial indications from the Wisconsin Attorney General’s office were that a settlement was possible, Gov. Tommy Thompson, one of two defendants named, demurred, deciding to hire outside counsel, thereby adding substantially to the cost to taxpayers. Thompson’s interest in maintaining the religious legal holiday and the statute mandating worship on Good Friday means that the lawsuit will move to trial, despite the simplicity of the issue and the clarity of facts.

“Gov. Thompson has done this to taxpayers before,” said Anne Nicol Gaylor, Foundation president.

“In the current challenge of public money subsidizing religious schools in Milwaukee, he took the expensive route of bypassing the Attorney General’s office and hiring outside attorneys In our lawsuit, at least, he has the excuse that he is named as a defendant. But he took the same action in the parochial school aid lawsuit where he was not named. Blatantly improper!

“Obviously, I think his action in bypassing the attorney general’s office is political.”

The Foundation’s lawsuit asserts that the plaintiffs are injured by the impermissible advancement of religion caused by the establishment of Good Friday as a legal holiday and by the statutory directive that Good Friday “shall uniformly be observed for the purpose of worship.”

The plaintiffs further assert that they are injured by the expenditure of tax revenues for the paid religious holiday for state employees and by the denial of access to state facilities and services on the Good Friday holiday.

Freedom From Religion Foundation