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Opening Arguments

Give me a break

If you're gonna make some people mad, why not just go for the grand prize and upset everybody?

A school board in Maryland has voted to remove all references to religious holidays from the district's calendar after Muslim leaders in the community asked that the Muslim holy day of Eid al-Adha be given equal consideration.

Montgomery County Public Schools, located in the Washington suburb of Rockville and the largest in Maryland, will still close for Christian and Jewish holidays and students will still get the same days off, the Washington Post reports.

But the decision to remove religious holiday references on next year's calendar has brought backlash against board members, who approved the change with a 7-1 vote on Tuesday,according to the Post.

Christians and Jews are upset at the removal of their holidays from the calendar, the Associated Press reports, and Muslims are upset theirs weren't included. Muslims accused the board of hiding behind secularism to protect more established communities.

No word on what the atheists and Pastifarians (those who worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster) think.

It's tempting to make this the year's first entry about the continuing War on Christmas saga, but let's just call it one more battle in the Great Diversity Upheaval. The Muslims weren't asking the school board to stop closing for Christian and Jewish holidays but merely to also close for a couple of their special days.  It's easy to see how that could get out of hand. Once you start down that path, every oddball religion in the country would demand its own day off, and you might as well close the schools for good.

So keeping the holidays as is but just removing religious references from the calendar seems to me like a pretty reasonable way to deal with the situation. The story notes that state and federal law forbid schols from closing for "purely religious" reasons, and they aren't really doing that. Absenteeism would be so high during the days that happen to coincide with Christian and Jewish holidays that the schools might as well close. Sorry, Muslims, if you want to get in on the action, you need more students of your faith so your absenteeism is noticed, too. It's not a case of "more established" religious communties, just the ones with numbers big enough to have an impact.

And, come on, people, Christmas is a special case, isn't it? It's at least as much a secular holiday as it is a religious one, and taking a nice break around it is something students and teachers alike need and no school district is ever going to abandon. But, hey, if we're going to call it Winter Break instead of Christmas Break on the school calendar, what's the big deal?