Classes on a religious holiday?

U-Wire and U-Wire

It seems that recently, a bit of a tempest in a teacup has been brewing on the pages of The Post. Is it because students are upset about university layoffs? Nope. Is it a discussion about the benefits and pitfalls of the government’s economic policies? Nope. Then what could be so controversial that it prompts multiple letters to the editor and countless Web comments? The issue that – if we’re to take the letter-writers at face value – is of cosmic importance is, ‘Should Christian students be excused from class on Good Friday?’ This issue isn’t as clear-cut as it seems, because this question is essentially a Rorschach test for people’s feelings about religion. Since hyperbole seems to be required for debating this question, I’m going to indulge in it as well. To ask the pro-religious absence side, the atheists see the addition of Good Friday to the list of excusable absences as an attack by the crusading religious hordes. To ask the anti-religious absence side, the religious people see the people arguing against addition as godless heathens who are unfairly picking on Christians for wanting equal treatment. OK, the clown nose is off, I’m being serious now. Both sides are going overboard on this, and we need to inject some rationality into the debate. First of all, this is not a First Amendment issue, because if you read the First Amendment, it says, ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’ Ohio University is not Congress, thankfully, therefore going down that avenue is a red herring. Good Friday is, at its core, a rather important holiday to the Christian faith. A majority of OU students identify as Christian. I’m Christian, but I don’t feel that I’m discriminated against by the university not dropping everything for one of my faith’s holidays. If I am led by my beliefs that I can’t attend classes on Good Friday, I can make the proper arrangements with my professors. The problem’s solved, and everyone wins. I get my time to reflect on the death of Jesus Christ, the professors get to teach their Friday classes and my classmates don’t have to get involved either way. Should said professors refuse to allow students to make up the work, then a problem exists. Since Christianity is a personal relationship, there’s no need to get university bureaucracy involved. If my religion gets all of its holy days off, then it’s only fair that all the other possible holy days of all the other religions get their days off. If they were days that classes were in session, we’d be lucky. Getting my dander up because I have class on Good Friday is futile because the university is a secular institution. If this were Athens Bible College, then chances are that classes would be canceled on Good Friday. But the goal of the university is, regardless of how many Christians attend here, to give students a secular, religion-neutral education. As far as the university is concerned, my religion or the religion of anyone else is irrelevant. Ohio University could care less about religious holidays because they exist outside of the academic world. As a religious person, I honestly don’t want the academic world getting involved in my religious observance, just as I don’t want my religion getting involved in my school. Religion and academics are not like peanut butter and chocolate; the mixing of the two does not produce a tasty treat of which the production should be encouraged. As long as students are being allowed to make arrangements with their professors for religious holidays, then no problem exists. People need to calm down on both sides; it’s not the end of the world if the university recognizes the holiday or not. Seriously, people, pick your battles. Is this really the most important thing going on today?