ACLJ Calls on NY State Univ. to Reverse Decision & Keep School Closed for Christian and Jewish Holidays
(Washington, DC) - The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), focusing on constitutional law, today urged the president of New York's Stony Brook University to reverse a troubling decision that ends a long-standing practice of closing school in observance of major Christian and Jewish holidays. The ACLJ calls the move "an unnecessary, ill-advised change that demonstrates hostility to members of all religious faiths."
"This schedule change demonstrates hostility toward religion and departs from the American tradition of the government accommodation of religious practices," said Jordan Sekulow, Executive Director of the ACLJ. "To discard a long-standing practice of closing school in observance of religious holidays is offensive and runs afoul of the Constitution, Supreme Court precedent, and New York State law. We urge Stony Brook University to reconsider and accommodate people of faith, not punish them."
In the past, classes have been cancelled at Stony Brook in observance of most major Christian and Jewish holidays such as Good Friday, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur. Now, university officials have decided to change that practice, with one university official quoted as saying the change is being made to ensure that some religions aren't given "special treatment" at the school.
In a legal analysis sent today to Stony Brook President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley, Jr., the ACLJ contends “the terms of the new calendar and the secretive, exclusionary process used to create it, strongly signal a hostility to religious adherents.”
The ACLJ letter clearly explains that this hostility in unwarranted, and is neither required nor justified by the Constitution.
"The Supreme Court has explained that 'the Constitution . . . affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any. . . . Anything less would require the ‘callous indifference’ we have said was never intended by the Establishment Clause.' The Court has noted that there is no 'constitutional requirement which makes it necessary for government to be hostile to religion and to throw its weight against efforts to widen the effective scope of religious influence.' '[H]ostility toward religion . . . has no place in our Establishment Clause traditions.'"
The ACLJ urges the university president to reconsider and reject the proposed changes to the academic calendar. "Refusing to accommodate religious observances now after many years of previously doing so strongly signals to current and prospective students and their families that Stony Brook's once welcoming approach to students of faith has changed," the letter concludes. "It is not too late to correct what appears to be an ill-advised change in SUNY Stony Brook policy."
The letter is posted here.
Led by Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) is based in Washington, D.C.