Sorry, I think I may have been a bit blunt with my statement. I was more so trying to emphasis on the point of removing holidays which are religious based. I think we are on the same page with that argument.
Now on the flip side of this, one of my friends (who is religious) came up with the following point. Which is a very valid point.
"dont get me wrong, i love the choc etc and love the 'festivities' of Easter, but I just dont agree why people should celebrate it if they dont even acknowledge the reason why we even do it!!! seems a bit backwards to me"
Kinda sounds like your friend might not be aware of the origins of Easter; and the fact that christianity commandeered it from pagan celebrations of spring.
Additionally, think of how commercialized Valentines, Easter, and Christmas (and others) have become. Its all part of the Hallmark Holiday mentality. Some people celebrate some holidays because the retail industry 'tells' them they should be celebrating. So they celebrate to have a celebration, and plenty know very little about the origins or the reason.
Hmm.. I think we need to take a closer look at religious minorities and see what they are doing.
When there is a major Hindu holiday, do Hindus call in sick?
There is no pragmatic approach on this one. There are so many conflicting dates to celebrate in America's religious spectrum that we can't cover all of them. On the flip side, if we don't try for SOME, there will be insanely high missed work/school days that don't line up.
I'd be happy celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr Day, and Earth Day and well.. non religious dates that make a positive statement for the world....but what happens when those that have religious holidays insist on taking a day off to observe them?
I guess that's why most places have taken to calling it Winter Break, Spring Break and Thanksgiving (though I bounce around on that one. Is it religious or is it patriotic?)
On top of eight paid holidays (including only Christmas as a remotely religious holiday) my government sponsored employer provides four personal days each year which have to be taken in that year or you lose them so that people may use them for such things as religious holidays. It also keeps from unfairly benefiting the religious over the non-religious in that everyone gets the same number of days off. That kind of approach would appear to take care of the problem of absence for religious reasons. Since we also have paid vacation time I can't imagine taking time off for religious reasons to be a problem.
I don't actually know of any government agencies that give paid days off for any religious holiday except Christmas. While the government might recognize the holidays of many religions, they don't pay their workers not to work on them except for Christmas, or Giftmas if you prefer. I would not in any way consider Thanksgiving to be a religious holiday. It is an American holiday. So I'm not sure which holidays you would want to "substitute" for - our government stays out of religious holidays as far as I know. Except Christmas, which you could certainly argue over.
Some states recognize Good Friday, but it's not a federal holiday.
I do like the idea of having a certain number of religious or personal days employees could take at their discretion. It would be a good way for the government to uphold the free exercise clause without violating the establishment clause. And everybody likes getting time off.