The city of Mansfield, Ohio is offering Christian government employees a pretty sweet deal (PDF): On Good Friday, in addition to their lunch break, employees can take an extra hour to go to church. Oh, and they’ll still get paid for that time.
The Mid Ohio Atheists point out that if every employee made only minimum wage and took the city up on its offer, it would still cost taxpayers $4200.
This glaring violation of the establishment clause not only shocked me, but shocked at least one employee of the City of Mansfield who is an Atheist. This employee contacted our Group and we took action. We immediately sent a letter to the City of Mansfield advising them of the violation and requesting that they modify their policy to bring it in compliance with the establishment clause by requiring people to submit leave requests for accrued time off on that day in the normal manner. We received no answer from the city regarding our request.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is already on the case. They sent a stern warning to the mayor, Timothy Theaker (PDF):
…Clearly, a policy in which employees go without pay for the time they spend at church, instead of work, is permissible. We urge you to amend your policy to provide only unpaid time off for employees to attend religious events.
When the government pays people to attend church, even for an hour, it crosses the line from accommodation to preferential treatment of church-going Christians…
Asking a city to treat employees equally, regardless of their religious beliefs, shouldn’t be controversial at all. Christians don’t deserve any preferential treatment and it’s sad that no other group or city leader was willing to speak out against this. But kudos to the Mid Ohio Atheists and FFRF for not letting this go by unchallenged.