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METZL v. LEININGER

May 27, 1994

ANDREA METZL, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT LEININGER, et al., Defendants.


Williams


The opinion of the court was delivered by: ANN CLAIRE WILLIAMS

Plaintiff Andrea Metzl ("Metzl") is a Chicago Public School teacher. She currently teaches learning disabled children at Edgebrook Elementary School. In July 1993, Metzl brought this suit against Robert Leininger, State Superintendent of Education, the Chicago Board of Education, D. Sharon Grant, President of the Chicago Board of Education, and Argie K. Johnson, General Superintendent of the Chicago Public Schools. *fn1" Metzl alleges that a provision of the Illinois School Code ("School Code") designating Good Friday as one of twelve state mandated school holidays violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution *fn2" and Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution of the State of Illinois. *fn3"

 This matter is now before the court on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the court declares the challenged portion of the School Code unconstitutional and enters a permanent injunction prohibiting its enforcement. Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is granted. Defendants' motion is denied.

 Background

 Enacted in 1941, Section 24-2 of the School Code designates Good Friday and 11 other days as legal school holidays. 105 ILCS 5/24-2 (1992). *fn4" Good Friday is considered by Christians as one of the holiest days of the liturgical year. A solemn, even mournful day, Good Friday commemorates for Christians, Jesus Christ's suffering and death on the cross. (Pl. Ex. B at PP 5-7; Pl. Ex. C at PP 5-8). *fn5" Unlike Christmas, Good Friday is generally seen as having no secular components. (Id.). As is the case on all legal school holidays, Illinois public schools are closed on Good Friday. Teachers and other school employees are not required to work and receive no reduction in pay for the holiday. 105 ILCS 5/24-2 (1992). Good Friday, however, is not an official state holiday for official state holiday for Illinois agencies and offices, *fn6" and the overwhelming majority of public institutions of higher education in Illinois conduct classes on Good Friday. (Pl. Statement of Uncontested Facts at P 15).

 Although no legislative history exists explaining the legislature's purpose in designating Good Friday as a legal school holiday, the parties have uncovered a proclamation issued by the Governor of Illinois in March, 1942, highlighting the significance (at least in his view) of the newly recognized state holiday. The Proclamation reads as follows:

 
The hallowed traditions of almost two thousand years cluster around the Friday just preceding Easter Sunday. Good Friday, as it has come to be called, is a day charged with especial meaning to multitudes throughout the Christian world.
 
Good Friday was lately given appropriate statutory recognition in Illinois. By enactment of the last regular session of our General Assembly, the day was made a legal and school holiday throughout the State.
 
The widespread commemoration of Good Friday, always becoming, is eminently fitting in these times of unusual stress.
 
NOW, THEREFORE, I, DWIGHT H. Green, Governor of the State of Illinois, by this official proclamation, do hereby direct attention to this significant day, Good Friday, which falls this year on April 3, and commend the secret rites and ceremonies of the occasion to the thoughtful consideration of churchgoers and believers throughout our State.

 (Pl. Ex. H).

 In addition to Section 24-2, two other sections of the School Code are relevant to the court's inquiry. First, under Section 26-1(5), "any child absent from a public school on a particular day . . . because the tenets of his religion forbid secular activity on a particular day" is not required to attend school on that day. 105 ILCS 5/26-1(5) (1992). This same section further provides that "nothing in this paragraph 5 shall be construed to limit the right of any school board, at its discretion, to excuse an absence on any other day by observance of a religious holiday." Id. Under this latter provision, several school districts in suburbs north of Chicago have for some time closed the public schools on the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when those holidays fall on school days. (Def. Statement of Uncontested Facts at P 9). *fn7" Finally, the School Code also provides that:

 105 ILCS 5/26-2b.

 Standard of Review

 Under Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." As the parties acknowledge, the material facts in this case are undisputed. (Def. Motion for Summary Judgment at 1; Pl. Motion for Summary Judgment at 1). Summary judgment is appropriate as a matter of law.

 Discussion

 The First Amendment provides that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . ." U.S. Const. amend. I. As the Supreme Court has made clear, the Establishment Clause is much more than a simple pledge that "no single religion will be designated as a state religion." School District v. Ball, 473 U.S. 373, 381, 87 L. Ed. 2d 267, 105 S. Ct. 3216 (1985). Resting upon "the premise that both religion and government can best work to achieve their lofty aims if each is left free from the other within its respective sphere," the Establishment Clause has been held to prohibit the government from promoting or affiliating with any religious doctrine or organization, discriminating among individuals on the basis of their religious beliefs, delegating state power to religious institutions, and entangling itself in religious affairs. County of Allegheny v. American Civil Liberties Union, Greater Pittsburgh Chapter, 492 U.S. 573, 590-91, 106 L. Ed. 2d 472, 109 S. Ct. 3086 (1989) (citations omitted). State or federal government conduct favoring one religion over another is clearly anathema. "Whatever else the Establishment Clause may mean (and we have held it to mean no official preference even for religion over nonreligion), it certainly means at the very least that government may not demonstrate a preference for one particular sect or creed (including a preference for Christianity over other religions)." Id. at 605. (citations omitted).

 Total separation of church and state, however, is neither possible nor desirable. Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 614, 29 L. Ed. 2d 745, 91 S. Ct. 2105 (1971); Committee for Public Education & Religious Liberty v. Nyquist, 413 U.S. 756, 760, 37 L. Ed. 2d 948, 93 S. Ct. 2955 (1973). Indeed, a failure to recognize the many important ways in which government and religion cross paths would run counter to the affirmative mandate of accommodation (not merely tolerance) of religious beliefs and practices embodied in the Free Exercise Clause. Cf. Allegheny, 492 U.S. at 657 (Kennedy, J., dissenting) ("Establishment Clause permits government some latitude in recognizing and accommodating the central role religion plays in our society."). It would also ignore more than two hundred years of national history. See Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 674-78, 79 L. Ed. 2d 604, 104 S. Ct. 1355 (1984) (recounting numerous incidents of official government acknowledgment of role of religion throughout nation's history). As the court explained in Lynch, "the line between permissible relationships and those barred by the Clause can no more be ...


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