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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Time for Fixing The Date Of Easter Is Overdue

The date of Easter should be fixed to avoid the uncertainty and inconvenience of the present system, says the National Secular Society (NSS).

Denis Cobell, president of the NSS said: “The Government should fix Easter as an early Spring holiday so that long-term planning can be made easier. Indeed, provision for fixing the date was made by an Act of Parliament in 1928. This provides for Easter to be fixed on the first Sunday after the second Saturday in April. But the Act’s provisions can only be brought into effect if the Christian churches agree. So far they have not given permission, and the Government shows no sign of even entering into discussion with them.” (Greg Knight MP obtained this information from the Secretary for State & Industry in a parliamentary question on 30 March.)

Mr Cobell added: “It would make more sense to have a fixed Spring bank holiday, which would not cause havoc with the school term, holidays, and has the support of education authorities. The former Whitsun holiday was changed to a late Spring holiday several years ago and provides a precedent for making such a change. Whit Monday used to be a bank holiday but has been replaced by the fixed late spring holiday. So, why not Easter now? This vestige of the Babylonian calendar may be removed at any time by an Order in Council, as laid down by the Easter Act of 1928. The Local Government Association agrees, proposing a two week school holiday starting in the last week of March—even if this is after Easter.

“The ultimate irony is that both Easter and midwinter festivals long pre-date Christianity, so it is entirely inappropriate for the church to be dictating the dates on which they are held, especially in a society that has largely abandoned religion.

“We further call on the Government to include Easter Sunday within the general provision of normal Sunday shopping hours for supermarkets and other large stores.”

The National Secular Society urges this change in line with its policy for separating church & state.


Published Mon, 10 Apr 2006