Religious Favoritism

Serena Sherwood, Editorial Board Member

On June 17, 1963, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that prayer or other mandated religious acts in schools were illegal under the First Amendment. Such practices, they said, violated the establishment clause, which prohibits Congress from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.” While this was a major win for secular schools, it’s pretty clear that there’s still a lack of input from other non-Christian religions when it comes to planning school events or activities. 

The first time I can remember school calendars getting in the way of my religion was in 6th grade. The upcoming Friday was the night when the middle school band students would go and play with the high schoolers at Liberty. It was also Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and one of the holiest days in Judaism. While I wanted so badly to go to the football game and play with the band, I was given a “no” from my mom, and stayed home to celebrate the new year. I was upset, sure, but not with my mom. Twelve-year-old Serena was upset that the two overlapped, and that the person in charge of scheduling the night didn’t check and see if it overlapped with one of the most important days of the Jewish religion. 

More times than I can count, non-Christian holidays haven’t been taken into perspective. Tests have fallen on religious holidays, DECA trips over Passover, and those are just the ones that I’ve personally experienced. I know that my teachers aren’t purposefully scheduling these at an inconvenience to a small percentage of the Liberty population, but we’re a population nevertheless. 

While many teachers are flexible with working around religious holidays, the problem could be avoided altogether if they took the five minutes at the beginning of the school year to Google when important holidays for major non-Christian religions are, and then use that information when planning midterms.

If we’re able to increase the amount of awareness of other religious holidays when it comes to planning these school events, it definitely could positively impact not only the general public knowledge, but also how other students and community members view religions that aren’t their own. 

42% of Muslim children surveyed in a IRDA study report experiencing some sort of religion-based harassment over the past year, with 8% reporting it happening every day. If educators and administrators showed that they value other religions, and are clear with their policies surrounding religious holidays, a culture of tolerance and respect will flourish. 

We live in a diverse world, and it’s time that our school calendar represents that.