Public Holidays and the Separation of Church and State

In 2017 there are 11 public holidays, 4 of which could be considered religious holidays. These are,

  • Friday 14 April — Good Friday
  • Monday 17 April — Easter Monday
  • Monday 25 December — Christmas Day
  • Tuesday 26 December — Boxing Day

This has always struck me as rather strange and unfair. I have always considered Church and State to have been separated in New Zealand. But, if I look a little deeper, it really isn’t. Public holidays are just one example. Watching the Speaker of the House pray to God at the start of a parliamentary session is a better one.

To nail the point home completely, our Queen is also the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

What has this got to do with Public Holidays?

Well, we are supposed to be a religiously diverse society. The State designating only Christian based holidays is at odds with that. In fact, if I was religious, I would find it downright annoying. Why do I have to take days off for somebody else’s religious festival?

Over 40% of people in New Zealand identify with no religion at all. Why do they have to change their lives, close their business, and follow the Christian calendar. Perhaps they would prefer to go to Bathurst every year. Or schedule an extended family meetup. Maybe Maori would like to follow Iwi gatherings?

Instead of sticking solely to the Christian calendar. Why don’t we give people a choice? At the start of each year you specify what days your holidays will be on. You can’t change them once you have chosen as they are statutory holidays. But you can place them where ever you want in the year.

This would seem to be a much fairer way than what we have now.

Downsides

Because New Zealand has lived under the Christian calendar for so long, there would be some problems.

What would happen when the owner of a business was one religion and the workers another? Could workers take holidays so as to maximise advantage in the workplace? All these things, and more, would have to be worked out.

In the end, we should remember that religious and ethical beliefs are not grounds for discrimination under the Human Rights Act (there are some exemptions for employers). The government forcing religious holidays on you and not recognising your own would seem to me to be discrimination.

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