Earlier this month thousands viewed Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s “happy dance” over solidifying the city’s status as a sanctuary protecting criminal illegal aliens.
Two years ago, Kenney took the lead to help the Philly Eid Coalition achieve its goal of adding two Muslim holidays to the school district calendar relying on “cultural inclusion” to justify his support even though his rationale collided with the First Amendment’s establishment of religion clause:
Our city was built on the idea that … the city welcomes all to worship and practice the faiths of our culture or our choosing[.] … We have to take into account how society sometimes ostracizes and eliminates people from the mainstream[.]
At the same time Kenney announced the creation of the Mayor’s Task Force on Cultural Inclusion:
The task force will study and produce recommendations regarding the expansion of religious observance days, the education of city management and employees to the religious sensitivities of their coworkers, how the courts and judicial system can better acknowledge religious days, and ways best disseminate information on religious holidays to the public including local businesses and employers.
Joining the Mayor and Philly School Superintendent when the Muslim holidays school calendar change was made were representatives from the Philly Eid Coalition whom Kenney thanked for pushing their agenda:
I’m grateful to the stakeholders and leaders that stand with me today to advance inclusion in the many ways that residents practice their faith and religion.
The Philadelphia School District’s (PSD) agreement to add the two Muslim holidays, Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr was made in 2016, but due to school calendar start and end dates, the Muslim holidays have yet to fall while schools are in session.
While adding two Muslim holidays to the calendar, for the 2018-2019 school year, PSD eliminated a Jewish holiday. Inquiries that were made about this change revealed that the Philly Eid Coalition represented groups including the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), an unindicted co-conspirator in the country’s biggest successful prosecution for terrorism financing.
CAIR was named in the prosecution for funneling money to HAMAS, a U.S. designated terrorist organization. CAIR’s co-founder and Executive Director Nihad Awad has publicly stated his support for HAMAS.
PSD’s chief of academic support “identified Philly Eid Coalition, a consortium representing CAIR and other groups, as a stakeholder in creating the school calendar.”
The Philadelphia School District (PSD) and Mayor Kenney have put “cultural inclusion” above any potential Constitutional violations by playing into the Philly Eid Coalition’s position that absent official observance by the city agencies of their holy days, the religion of Islam is not being respected.
In order for a school district to avoid violating First Amendment establishment entanglements and close on days that coincide with a religious observance or excuse student absences on those days, there must be an appropriate secular reason:
According to Anti-Defamation League religious freedom counsel David Barkey, consistently with the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, ‘[p]ublic schools can’t close to observe a holiday, but can if there’s an appropriate secular reason. The reason usually is the level of absenteeism’ that would hamper schooling.
In 2016, when Mayor Kenney applauded adding the two Muslim holidays to the school district’s calendar, he was quoted as saying that “he is ready to add the same holidays to city workers’ calendars.” It appears, however, that to date, that change has not been made.