Bloomberg has almost got it right…almost
A recent article on the NYTimes reports that the City Council voted to add two Muslim holidays to the public school’s holiday schedule. Mayor Bloomberg has a problem with this:
Spurred by a broad coalition of religious, labor and immigrant groups, the City Council overwhelmingly passed a resolution on Tuesday to add two of the most important Muslim holy days to the public schools’ holiday calendar.
But the vote, which was nonbinding, put the Council in conflict with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has the final say to designate the days off and has said he is resolutely opposed to the idea.
The mayor told reporters before the vote that not all religions could be accommodated on the holiday schedule, only those with “a very large number of kids who practice.”
“If you close the schools for every single holiday, there won’t be any school,” he said. “Educating our kids requires time in the classroom, and that’s the most important thing to us.”
I agree with this, however, Mayor Bloomberg seems to reach the wrong conclusion. It is true that you cannot accomodate every religion, therefore you should accomodate none! First of all, kids don’t practice any religion. It is their parents that do so, so this issue is not about the kids who practice and how numerous they are. Second, since when is an argument from popularity acceptable when issues of civil rights and equal treatment are on the plate? Such argument only makes sense to the people on the majority. Furthermore, if the City Council felt pressured to pass this resolution it appears to me that the Muslim population must be quite numerous.
The current school calendar recognizes major Christian and Jewish holy days like Christmas and Yom Kippur, but no Muslim holy days.
Can you say discrimination? I don’t know about you, but I live in NYC and I can tell you that there are many, many practicing Muslims living here. If the state is going to honor Christian and Jewish holidays then they cannot discriminate against Muslim ones, based on some cowardly argument from popularity. In fact they should not be discriminating against any religious belief regardless of how numerous or not it’s followers are. The First Amendment to the US Constitution says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion
Picking and choosing which religion deserves to be recognized in the public schools’ holiday calendar is in fact doing the opposite, by firmly endorsing and supporting the Christian and Jewish faith over the Muslim faith. As such the only solution that is in line with the US Constitution and which is equally fair to every US Citizen and resident is not to endorse any religious holidays and exclude all religious holidays from the calendar. If the holiday is so important to the parents of the children they can keep the kids home.
The state’s job is not to decide which religion should be favored over which other religion. It’s job is to be equally indifferent to all religions. Mayor Bloomberg would do well to remember that.