OLYMPIA — Public employees and students in public schools would be allowed to take up to two days off each year for reasons of faith or conscience under legislation that passed the Senate on a 47-0 vote this week.

Senate Bill 5173, sponsored by Sen. Bob Hasegawa, D-Beacon Hill, would grant public employees the option of taking a new unpaid holiday along with a paid floating day they are entitled to on days that suit their religious beliefs. 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.

“Our diverse population has diverse needs and priorities that we see every day in my 11th Legislative District,” Hasegawa said. “Just as we all have beliefs we hold precious, so should we all have equal opportunity to properly honor those beliefs.”

Hasegawa’s legislation is designed to provide flexibility to peoples and faiths that don’t fit conveniently into the standard calendar. For instance, the two most important Muslim and Jewish holidays fall not on a consistent day each year but on a different day due to the shorter lunar calendar year and the method for determining the date.

“Given the unanimous support for this bill in the Senate, I am optimistic it will receive similar support in the House,” Hasegawa said. “I think everyone realizes the importance of respecting the rights of others when it comes to honoring our respective beliefs.”