Oklahoma Good Friday law would not be OK

Good Friday plaintiffs pose by bust of Robert La Follette, including Foundation staff and Wisconsin state employees. Photo by Brent Nicastro

A misguided bill to name Good Friday a state holiday passed the Oklahoma House on March 20. The Senate should kill this bill. 

There is no secular purpose behind declaring Good Friday a holiday except to observe one religion’s “holy day.”

Good Friday is not a “holiday” with secular trimmings. Good Friday is a Christian date commemorating the supposed crucifixion and death of Christianity’s savior god, Jesus. As such, it has no meaning for anyone but devout Christians. A lot of Christians today largely ignore Good Friday in favor of celebrating Easter, which follows two days later on a Sunday, necessitating no state holiday.

The bill passed by a vote of 69-24, and 22 of those opposed were Republicans. “I felt it was in bad judgment to add another holiday to the schedule, especially considering the various economic circumstances of the time,” said state Rep. Jason Murphey (a Republican), according to the Tulsa World.

Not only would such a state law show unconstitutional preference for one religion over another and for religion over nonreligion, but it would deny citizens needed services by grinding state government to a halt.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation successfully overturned a similar law in Wisconsin in 1996.  The unpopular law was the bane of library users and students locked out of public libraries, and citizens seeking access to their local governments or needing basic weekday services (such as trash collection).

It is unclear whether this bill would be used to shut down public schools on Good Friday, but if so, that would create another layer of inconvenience and endorsement of religion favoring Christians over others.

State legislators who feel the need to take Good Friday off for religious reasons should pray on their own time, using their own vacation days. It’s not OK for state governments to award an extra paid day off to observe this grim marker of the dominant religion.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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