No books for you on Easter!

Library closure raises issue issues about separation of church and state

| Apr 2, 2010

For the first time the Boulder Public Library will close on Easter Sunday. According to e-mails winging their way between members of City Council, the Library Board and the City staff, this unprecedented decision was made last year but not announced until shortly before the closures, and then in small type on the library’s web site.

easter-bunnyClosing public facilities to benefit a particular religious denomination is fraught with legal issues involving the separation of church and state. Boulder has a very diverse population, many of whom are not Christians and do not commemorate Easter. To deprive those citizens of library services in order to honor a particular faith seems to fly in the face of Boulder’s tradition of respecting diversity.

Some defenders of the closures say that Christmas is also a Christian holiday. In reality that day has become a secular celebration, much to the chagrin of many Christians. Easter, with the exception of eggs and bunnies, is a thoroughly Christian celebration.

No one should begrudge Christians the ability to celebrate their holy days. The issue arises when government, in this case the City of Boulder, gives special preference to one faith. If this type of policy is allowed to remain in effect, will the City likewise have special days on which the libraries are closed for Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Unitarians and non-believers?

I understand that members of City Council are already getting an earful from the public about Sunday closures. If you wish to register your opinion, you can write to all nine members of City Council by using the [email protected] email address. I expect your communications will also be relayed to the library director and the city manager, and that they will learn from this mistake.

Columnist Eric Karnes is a Boulder-based commercial real estate research consultant to several national clients.