Monday, February 2, 1998

Sen. Baker
wants change in
Good Friday holiday

The senator wants it to become
a nonsectarian holiday,
Aloha Day

By Mary Adamski

The state holiday on the Christian holy day of Good Friday would be changed to a nonsectarian Aloha Day, under a bill introduced by state Sen. Rosalyn Baker.

The substitute holiday would be set for the first Monday in April rather than tied to the Christian observance of Easter Sunday.

"I believe in separation of church and state," said Baker, who submitted the bill at the request of the Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church.

"Even though I am a Christian, it doesn't seem appropriate that we take a state holiday for a day that has no meaning outside the Christian religion."

Baker is a member of the Senate Human Resources Committee, where the bill is referred. No hearing was set for a bill she introduced last year calling for the reinstatement of Discoverers' Day -- celebrated as Columbus Day by the federal government -- in exchange for Good Friday.

The bill states that the other 12 annual state holidays "generally reflect secular, nonreligious events recognized by the majority of people in our state," but Good Friday fails to meet the U.S. Supreme Court's test for compliance with the constitutional doctrine of church-state separation.

Eleven other states officially observe Good Friday, which was established as a holiday in Hawaii in 1941. A 1987 challenge of its constitutionality failed in U.S. District Court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Mitchell Kahle, president of Hawaii Citizens for Separation of State and Church, said state observance of the Christian holy day appears to be an endorsement of one religion. State census data indicates only 35 percent of the population are members of Christian churches, he said.

Baker said that unlike Good Friday, Christmas has been "heavily secularized," with people of other faiths celebrating it with gift-giving and feelings of goodwill and peace.

"It's meaning goes beyond the original celebration as a Christian holiday," she said.

The date of Good Friday, which commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus, varies from year to year.

Christians establish the date of Easter under a centuries old tradition as the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.

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