Public employees and students in public schools will be allowed to take up to two days off each year for reasons of faith or conscience under legislation signed into law today by Gov. Jay Inslee.

The new law, sponsored by Sen. Bob Hasegawa, D-Beacon Hill, grants public employees the option of taking two new unpaid holidays on days that suit their personal faith or conscience. Similarly, public school students could be excused from school for up to two days for similar reasons, provided they have their parents’ approval. The school absences would not affect school district compliance with educational requirements or enrollment calculations.

Hasegawa’s legislation is designed to provide flexibility to peoples and faiths that don’t fit conveniently into the standard calendar. The two most important Muslim and Jewish holidays, for example, fall not on consistent days each year but on different days due to the shorter lunar calendar year and the methods for determining the dates.  Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, Native Americans and numerous other faiths and cultures can benefit from this new bill.

“The principle behind this law is that the American ideal of religious freedom should be honored for everyone,” Hasegawa said. “Religious minorities should be able to properly celebrate their most meaningful holidays without fear of recriminations in the workplace or classroom.”

Hasegawa plans to attend a multicultural celebration of the bill’s passage soon and invites anyone who would like to participate to contact his district office at 206-858-8041 for more details.