Should Good Friday be a public holiday?

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Many people enjoyed the day off from work on Good Friday; some of those people are our state employees. But there are some residents of Baton Rouge who believe taxpayers should not be footing the bill for this Christian holiday.

At high noon in downtown Baton Rouge the crosswalks are normally full as state workers bustle in and out of their offices. But on this day all is quiet, as many of Louisiana's 72,000 employees had the day off. And that doesn't sit well with everyone.

"It made more sense when the society was more totally Christian, but now as we have more people of different faiths among us, it becomes sort of an offense to people of other religions," said local attorney Michael Wolf.

Wolf identifies as a Libertarian and a Buddhist. On the Jim Engster Radio Show Friday morning, Wolf said he thinks Good Friday as a government holiday violates the constitution's prohibition against the establishment of a state religion.

"I think it's a theological holiday. It's a holiday that celebrates a belief within a particular religion," Wolf said. "Many of our holidays were rooted in religious practices, but later became secular holidays."

Louisiana is one of only twelve states that recognizes Good Friday as a public holiday, and it was in one of those states where the day off was challenged in court.

In 1999 an appellate court ruled that Indiana legally could give state employees a paid day off as long as the state provided a valid non-religious reason. Indiana argued that Good Friday served as a much-needed spring holiday, and pointed to the fact that most schools are also closed.

Many locals with the day off believe there is no conflict.

"I think the way our culture is going, the way our people are going, our children are going, it's not wrong to leave a little tradition left. There's so little tradition left in this country," said Heather Woerner.

"My ex-wife she's half Muslim, half Christian, and so her family was a melting pot and they were all perfectly fine with Good Friday being a public holiday. It's just one of those things when you're part of a culture or part of a society, it's ok," Antonio Civitarese said.

Wolf knows Good Friday will likely remain a holiday in this deeply religious state, but hopes the voices of the minority stay in the conversation.

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