Today is the last day before Holy Triduum of Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter, and all I can think is, “Wow, I teach in a Christian college, I can get Friday off!”
Well, actually, my husband also gets Friday off (and Saturday as well, since he usually teaches on Saturday), but the public schools, respecting church and state, merely call it “Holiday,” or “Student / Teacher Holiday” which is ironic since the word “holiday” means “holy day.”
I know that we celebrate holidays that are a part of the American civic religion: MLK Day, President’s Day, Mother’s Day, Independence Day. But this coming Friday isn’t a civic holiday (after all, post offices and banks will be open); the public schools are getting this day off because it is Good Friday, a Christian holiday, but these same schools feel barred from calling a spade a spade because of church and state issues.
To me it’s ironic — I know that the United States will never become a de jure secular state like France and certainly never allow a de jure state church to occur; after all, that’s one of the things the Founding Fathers were rejecting when they threw off the British Empire and that Empire’s church from America. But the individual right to believe what ever that individual believes comes from a belief that those individual, inalienable rights, as stated in the American civic “Scripture” called the Declaration of Independence, come from a “Creator.”
The U.S. government, founded on the belief that God-given rights must be secured, must also secure the rights of those who deny that their rights are God-given. And therein lies the paradox of the separation of church and state in this country, which lies in the very foundation of this country. And, even though I grouse about the silliness of euphemizing Good Friday as “Spring Holiday” or something like that, it’s a compromise that accommodates everybody’s individual sense of what’s right and wrong, and, heck, I can live with that.