Backlash Continues Over Good Friday Decision

Grief over Good Friday continued at the April 9 ORR School Committee meeting, as one resident introduced a petition with 115 signatures opposing the Joint School Committee’s decision to switch Good Friday in 2015 from a religious holiday into a regular school day.

Margaret McGee of Rochester said that in 1776 the Declaration of Independence established the rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion. *

“And I still believe in freedom of speech and freedom of religion,” said McGee.

The joint committees voted on March 27 to make Good Friday a regular school, Superintendent Doug White pointed out. He said in order for the vote to be rescinded and a new vote taken, one member from the prevailing side, a member who voted to nix the religious holiday, would have to make the motion to rescind and the motion would need to be seconded.  Subsequent debate would take place, and then the original motion would be made, seconded, and re-voted.

Slightly complicating matters, some members who originally voted for the change are not returning to the committee after elections. Rochester School Committee Member Michelle Cusolito did not run for reelection, and Tim Scholz lost the election later in the evening.

“We look at the best practice for the best quality of education,” said Chairman James O’ Brien. He said the committees looked at several factors when making the vote on the school calendar.

Rochester resident Robert McGee told the committee, “Nine out of ten people that I have talked to are against it.” He added that “most people” are also going to keep their kids home on Good Friday next year.

O’Brien said there was no attack on any singular religion. “It was in defense of all religions,” said O’ Brien. “Jewish, or Hindu, or no faith at all.” He continued, “We try to make the best decisions that will affect great education.”

School Committee Member Charles Motta said he would like information about how students and their families actually celebrate Good Friday this year to better understand the situation.

            Speaking in favor of the committees’ decision to eliminate Good Friday, Rick Cusolito, husband to former School Committee Member Michelle Cusolito, cited the 1971 Lemon v. Kurtzman Supreme Court decision regarding public funding of religious schools. The ruling established the “Lemon Test,” a three-prong test concerning law and religion.

The Lemon Test governs legislation pertaining to religion, which must contain each prong: 1) must include a secular purpose; 2) must not enhance or inhibit a religion; 3) there must be no “excessive government entanglement” with religion.

Since Cusolito voiced his concern at the end of the meeting, there was no further debate on the subject. The topic will likely be discussed at the next Joint School Committee meeting on May 8, however O’ Brien stressed that the meeting could be rescheduled to a different date.

Also during the meeting, the board discussed ORR school choice slots for the 2014-2015 school year, yet took no action until further information could be provided.

White said his office has received many applications rather early in the season, and his administrative assistant is receiving between 20 and 25 calls requesting information, daily.

The junior and high schools could increase its number of slots for next year and use the revenue to go toward bringing faculty levels back up, as Devoll suggested, or put toward “stuff” like computers, as suggested by Assistant Superintendent Dr. Elise Frangos. The schools currently have 93 school choice slots filled by out of district students.

In other matters, ORR High School Principal Michael Devoll asked the committee to vote to approve a new location to host the 2014 senior prom, after the chosen venue, Lakeview Pavilion in Foxboro, burned down April 5. Devoll said the venue has promised the return of the $1,000 deposit for the event, and the committee approved relocating the prom to the Indian Pond Country Club in Kingston.

The committee also approved the Athletic Trainer contract, which received two bids this year instead of the single bid received every year by the school’s current athletic training provider, Southcoast Occupational Health.

White said the bid from Hawthorne Medical Associates was a lower figure, however the deal was contingent upon the school’s current trainer leaving Southcoast and accepting an employment position with Hawthorne. The employee refused, so the school will continue with Southcoast.

The next meeting of the ORR School Committee is scheduled fro May 14 ay 6:00 pm in the superintendent’s conference room at ORR.


*The Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4, 1776, affirmed the right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” and stated the reasons for separation from the British Kingdom. It was not until the U.S. Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787 and ratified on March 4, 1789 when the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights prohibited Congress from establishing a federal religion, “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” The Fourteenth Amendment subsequently protected citizens from discrimination, including religious discrimination.

By Jean Perry


11 Responses to “Backlash Continues Over Good Friday Decision”

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  1. The Jerome Family says:

    I would like to know where this petition is and Where is can be signed. I think there is alot more people that would sign it. . Also why do you think Tom Scholz was not relected, I have a feeling it was due to his vote on this subject. They mentioned in article parents will be keeping students home that day, I believe teachers will stay home also and subs will have to be brought in. What has teachers union have to say about this decision?

  2. Debra Graf says:

    Religious aspect of the day aside, those who are deciding on this issue would do well to focus on the practical aspect–that is that the majority of students, teachers, and school staff are Christians, and will be recognizing Good Friday as they should–by not attending school that day. From a purely practical point of view, it does not make any sense to schedule a regular school day on Good Friday.

    And, as I commented at an earlier time this past week, recognition of Good Friday has been the norm for decades. That has been so for good reason–the majority of people in the United States are Christian. Why would we stop recognizing this based on the decision of a handful of people?

    Once again, I urge concerned citizens, taxpayers, parents, students, etc., to make their voices heard and urge the School Committee and the school administration to re-think their vote and reverse their debatable and parochial decision.

  3. Chris Bertram says:

    The US Constitution separates church and state. Since the ORR district is a public school district it has to follow the law. If parents want to keep their children home, or send them to a religious school, it is a family decision. They shouldn’t impose a religious preference on the board or other families. Most working adults don’t have the day off.

  4. Debra Graf says:

    The U.S. Constitution does NOT separate church and state, although that is a fallacy promoted and believed by many–especially by secularists. Thomas Jefferson wrote a phrase about religion, in a letter dated 1802, well AFTER the U.S. Constitution was written. That phrase is what many believe to be part of our Constitution; it is not.

    Freedom OF religion is provided for under our Constitution, not freedom FROM religion.

  5. Chris Bertram says:

    Well it is the law now, decided by the Supreme Court in 1947. When the Constitution was written a public education was perhaps a dream in the future. As public education became a reality, problems arose.
    EVERSON V. BOARD OF EDUCATION, 330 U.S. 1 (1947)
    “The ‘establishment of religion’ clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect ‘a wall of separation between Church and State.'” 330 U.S. 1, 15-16.

  6. Tom Waldron says:


    Taking your argument to its logical conclusion, should “In God we Trust” be taken off all currency?

    Should we rewrite the Pledge of Allegiance?

    Should the US Stock exchange be forced to open on Good Friday?

    Should the US Supreme Court no longer open with “God save the United States and this honorable court.”

    Should attorneys sworn into the Supreme Court all dutifully stand and pledge to do so—“So help me God”

    I could go on……but unlike you I’m not a constitutional law scholar-LOL

    • Robert Brown says:

      All of those things should be done. We deserve to live under laws determined by our legislatures. Not be compelled by rules and demands made by a self appointed clergy. “One nation under law…” That should suffice.

    • Chris Bertram says:

      The Pledge of Allegiance has already been rewritten to include God.

      The Supreme Court should pledge to uphold the law.

      People running for any type of election should not be asked anything about their religious preferences.

      The US Stock exchange can make it’s own decisions. Do world markets close that day?

  7. Tom Waldron says:

    Hi Bob

    While I disagree with you, I think the great thing about this country is everybody gets to have their say-regardless what their beliefs are

    As a Mattapoisett resident, I resent the fact that people who don’t even live in my town, essentially circumnavigated the democratic process to impose their beliefs on me, without the opportunity for frank and open discussion by all.

    Why was this issue not put on the agenda for the original meeting?

    I’m all in favor of letting everyone have their say…..and let the chip fall where they may. But to have this “backdoored” in by someone NOT running for re-election to the school committee is a sad reflection on their respect for the democratic process


    • Robert Brown says:

      You say that the decision of the democratically elected school committee is “imposing their beliefs on (you)”. By insisting upon suspending school for religious purposes in a non-religious institution like our public school system you are imposing your religious beliefs on me, my children, and my grandchildren, and thwarting the democratic process. By practicing you religion privately, you impose less upon the beliefs of others, and have the greatest opportunity to experience your religion the way you wish.
      Bob Brown

  8. Debra Graf says:

    The Everson decision was an interpretation of the First Amendment, and it had to do with the funding of school buses.

    I already pointed out that Thomas Jefferson, in a letter in 1802, wrote a phrase about religion, which is used in error by many to “prove” separation of church and state.

    When the Constitution first came to pass, and subsequently there was talk of an amendment, James Madison and others wanted to stop the formation of a national religion. This was accomplished via the First Amendment. There was no prohibition by the states to concern themselves with religion; however, Congress was affected by the Amendment in the sense that they were not to make laws overriding the states, regarding religion.

    Religion, particularly Christianity, has been a part of America’s makeup since its founding. The Supreme Court, up until the Everson decision, made note of this fact time and again, in various ways, and continued to uphold the rights of the states respecting religion. That is why many were shocked with the Everson decision, a judgment made by a liberal group of judges They cited Jefferson’s words from his letter and not previous decisions of the Supreme Court. Liberal interpretation had found its way in, and we live with it to this day. That decision seems to have been used as a building block, and then compiled with successive errors and liberal interpretations.

    Now, the only way to get back to the original intent of the First Amendment is to correct these errors and liberal interpretations via legislation. One federal judge, Chief Judge Brevard Hand, in JAFFREE V BOARD OF SCHOOL COMMISSIONERS OF MOBILE COUNTY (1983), did decide that the Supreme Court had misinterpreted the First Amendment. Those who respect and understand the founding and tradition of this country hope that corrective decisions, like Judge Hand’s, will continue.

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