Public schools in US state removing religious holidays from calendar

(Photo: REUTERS / James Lawler Duggan)Greg Scott of the Alliance Defending Freedom speaks to reporters outside the U.S. Supreme Court after it heard arguments in the case of Town of Greece, NY v. Galloway, in Washington November 6, 2013. The Supreme Court today heard the case concerning public prayers before town meetings and whether it violates the Constitution.

Public schools in Montgomery, Alabama have decided to remove Christmas, Easter, and other religious holidays from their published school calendars.

The Board of Education of Montgomery County voted 7 to 1 on November 11 to remove all references to all religious calendars to be published next year, The Washington Post reported.

School Superintendent Joshua Starr said the county's public schools will still be closed on Christian and Jewish holidays due to absences of staff and students, but not because religious holidays are observed.

The decision came after a recommendation by Starr in response to the request of a Muslim community asking for an equal recognition to the Muslim holy day Eid al-Adha.

The Muslim community leaders have been requesting a day off from staff and students for at least one of their two major holidays for years.

They say that a recognition of their religious holy day would mean equity with Christian and Jewish students who get days off for their holidays.

But Montgomery board's decision to remove religious holidays in the school calendar is not what the Muslim community expected.

"By stripping the names Christmas, Easter, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, they have alienated other communities now, and we are no closer to equality," said Saqib Ali, a former Maryland state delegate and co-chair of the Equality for Eid Coalition. "It's a pretty drastic step, and they did it without any public notification."

Starr presented three options to the board and a majority of it recommended they do away with the names of both the Muslim and Jewish holidays on the calendar.

But as they were amending the proposal, the board decided to remove Christmas and Easter as well.

People of faith are not happy with the decision.

Montgomery school board member Rebecca Smondrowski was flooded with angry messages on Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail as she had supported the move to strip religious holidays from the calendar.

School board Vice President Patricia O'Neill said she is confident that the board made a good decision.

"It seems we've made multiple religious groups mad, but I believe we did the right thing," she said. "And we're in good company. Fairfax, Arlington, Loudoun - all are silent in calling it Christmas; they call it winter break."

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