Equal protection of the laws seems like such a simple concept, and yet it has — Hydra-like — spawned an ever-growing body of jurisprudence in which two problems spring to life for every one which is resolved.
Today, the Washington Post has an article about efforts to persuade Montgomery County Public Schools to make the two great Muslim religious feasts — Eid al Adha and Eid al Ftir — school holidays. In support of this argument is the fact that schools are closed for Christian holidays — Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter — and for Jewish holidays — Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Personally, I think it is a mistake to close the schools for the benefit of any religion, however thinly the closure may be rationalized by issues of teachers' absences. However, I think privileging some religions over others is clearly not right, and it strikes me as Constitutionally dubious.
The principles of liberty and equality that purport to guide this country are often in conflict. But this is one instance in which both religious liberty and equal treatment militate in favor of consistent treatment for all religions. This is particularly true when the excluded religion qualifies as a "discrete and insular minority" that is often unfairly targeted for discrimination based on prejudices born of ignorance and international conflict that play no rational role in how people should be treated in the United States. For these reasons, so long as any religion receives a school holiday for its major religious festivals, all religions should have their holidays recognized on an equal basis.
The fairness we show in our schools today is the fairness we will receive in our jobs tomorrow. Let us adhere to our principles, embrace our diversity, enjoy our liberty, and treat each other with fairness and kindness. Happy Eid al Adha!