Sen. Bob Hasegawa was presented the Interfaith Leadership Award by the Faith Action Network at its annual event recently at the Renton Pavilion.

Hasegawa received the award in recognition of legislation he sponsored (Senate Bill 5173) to give public employees the option of taking two new unpaid holidays on days that suit their personal faith or conscience. Furthermore, public school students may also be excused from school for up to two days for similar reasons, provided they have their parents’ approval. The school absences do not affect school district compliance with educational requirements or enrollment calculations.

“I believe the American ideals of religious freedom and acts of conscience should be honored for everyone. This law will enable religious minorities to properly celebrate their most meaningful holidays without fear of recriminations in the workplace or classroom,” Hasegawa said. “This new law provides 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 also benefit from the change in law. But this also supports people of conscience whose timelines also don’t fit neatly into predetermined time schedules.

In bestowing the award, Faith Action Network officials cited the impact of Hasegawa’s legislation on the lives of the interfaith community and lauded him for bringing together people of all faiths and cultures last June to celebrate a victory shared across faith traditions.