FFRF Asks State to Quit Citing Good Friday as State Holiday

The Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, which won a major victory in federal court overturning Wisconsin's Good Friday state holiday 14 years ago, has asked the Revisor of Statutes Bureau to quit listing Good Friday as a state holiday in the official version of the Wisconsin State Statutes.

Attorney Richard L. Bolton wrote the Revisor of Statutes Bureau on behalf of the Foundation to remove Good Friday from future published revisions.

He noted that Judge John Shabaz ruled in Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Litscher, 920 F. Supp. 969 (W.D. Wis., 1996) that the primary purpose of Wisconsin's designation of Good Friday was the promotion of Christianity over other religions.

The State of Wisconsin, as a result of the Foundation's victory, promptly gave state workers a floating half-holiday to take any time they wish.

"But the Foundation receives complaints every year from city or county citizens around the state who find local governments continuing to observe Good Friday as a legal holiday. They find the courts or city hall closed, or even libraries! Counties justify this unconstitutional observance based on the dated presence of Good Friday as a state holiday in the state statutes.

"It's been 14 years," Gaylor added. "It's time the state statutes reflect the change in law. It's time all county and city officials start complying."

Complicating the situation this year is the fact that the State of Wisconsin has made Good Friday a "furlough" day. Gaylor said she is not happy with the message this may convey. For example, she noted, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, which took spring break this week, will be closed on Good Friday, as well.

"The State of Wisconsin should have taken special care to avoid furlough closure on Good Friday," Gaylor said. She added that the Foundation will keep a file on complaints from the public.

The overturned law required that "on Good Friday the period from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. shall uniformly be observed for the purpose of worship." In practice, government agencies uniformly closed at noon. The Foundation had received numerous complaints from unhappy University of Wisconsin students, library patrons and citizens foiled in attempts to conduct official business. The Foundation successfully sued with plaintiffs representing the University, state workers and state taxpayers.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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