Today is Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday of atonement and fasting that is perhaps Judaism's most important holiday. If you're Glenn Beck, it's also a chance to perform some political punditry. Is this OK, given Beck's positive words about Judaism and the holiday, or is it a step too far?
Glenn Beck said on his radio show, "I thought it would be a good day for all of us to fast and pray, you know. And I got this idea from Thomas Jefferson. After they put together the Continental Congress, the first thing they did was put together a day -- a national day of fast and prayer, and I thought the Day of Atonement would be a good day to do it." Beck, apparently unaware that the holiday calls for avoiding technology and communications, has tweeted throughout (Yom Kippur began last night at sundown): "2morrow my family will b fasting & praying 4 the Country & it's leaders. Please join us. No better day than Day of Atonement?" He added, "Fasting today. U?"
John Carney of the Business Insider frames it:
Carney noted that Beck isn't alone: The Senate Finance Committee is taking the day off. Carney doesn't take a stance on Beck, but Keith Olbermann, Aaron Keyak of the Huffington Post and Ari Rabin-Havt of Media Matters all condemned his use of the holiday. "Glenn Beck's attempt to politicize this holiest of days with his far right agenda is not only disgusting, but shows a profound disrespect for the Jewish people," Rabin-Havt wrote.
In some sense, this can be looked at as a sign of respect for the faith of other people. But many employers look down on those who attempt to take off holidays of other faiths. Employees taking the day off are looked at as "free riders" on other people's religions, as if they were taking advantage of the fact of the holiday just to get a day away from the office.
There is also a tendency to apply this asymmetrically across religions. It's fine for everyone to take off Christmas, for instance. But not everyone can get away with taking off for Samvatsari, the holiest day of the year for Jains. How can this disparate treatment be explained?