Saturday, January 17, 2015

Judgment of Solomon

It is always a joyous occasion when local elected bodies are called upon to debate and decide issues that relate to religious beliefs and practices.

Such was the case recently when the Howard County Board of Education voted on the listing of religious holidays on the date boxes on the HCPSS school calendar.

Setting aside, for a moment, the decidedly Abrahamic focus (with the exception of dharma-oriented Sikhism and, arguably, the syncretic Bahá'í faith) of the officially recognized religious holidays, one should not confuse the debate itself as another front in the so-called War on Religion.

The inclusion or exclusion of the holidays from a calendar would have zero impact on the right of Howard County families to worship, or not, in the manner of their choosing.  The right of private individuals to express publically their faiths and belief systems remains unchanged by the Board’s decision.

In any event, the majority (correctly in my estimation), recognized that excluding certain holidays from the calendar could be deemed insensitive and othering in our culturally heterogeneous County.  This leaves two obvious equitable solutions – either including all holidays on the date boxes or removing all of them from the date boxes. 

So the Board threaded the needle with a third, design-centric, approach; with their solution calling for the creation of a “separate box” that names the holidays  “alongside the month in which they fall.” 

This action will, in all likelihood, not satisfy advocates of a strict separation of church and state; nor will it placate those who believe the removal of the holidays from the date boxes constitutes an insult to their chosen religion. 

However, it is a good and fair compromise.  Importantly, the discussion could have descended quickly into extreme rancor but it did not.   The sentiments expressed in the Baltimore Sun article were thoughtful and free from divisive language…which is encouraging in light of some recent BoE debates.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

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