The Atheists' Holiday

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An incorrigible atheist and his ACLU lawyer go before a judge to complain that while Christians celebrate Christmas and Easter, and Jews observe Yom Kippur and Hanukkah, there is no such public holiday, or "holy day," for atheists. The judge begs to differ. Full story below.

Description: Viral joke / Urban legend
Circulating since: 2003 (this version)
Status: False (details below)

Email text contributed by L. McGuinn, Jan. 29, 2004:

In Florida, an atheist became incensed over the preparation for Easter and Passover holidays and decided to contact his lawyer about the discrimination inflicted on atheists by the constant celebrations afforded to Christians and Jews with all their holidays while the atheists had no holiday to celebrate.
The case was brought before a wise judge who after listening to the long, passionate presentation of his lawyer, promptly banged his gavel and declared, "Case dismissed!"
The lawyer immediately stood and objected to the ruling and said, "Your honor, how can you possibly dismiss this case? Surely the Christians have Christmas, Easter and many other observances. And the Jews -- why in addition to Passover they have Yom Kippur and Hanukkah... and yet my client and all other atheists have no such holiday!"
The judge leaned forward in his chair and simply said "Obviously your client is too confused to know about or to celebrate the atheists' holiday!"
The lawyer pompously said "We are aware of no such holiday for atheists, just when might that be, your honor?"
The judge said "Well it comes every year on exactly the same date-- April 1st!"
"The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'"
Psalm 14:1, Psalm 53:1

Analysis: Although several readers have forwarded the above story to me for verification, it's quite obviously a joke at the expense of unbelievers, and not based on any actual court records or news reports I could find. The earliest iteration of the text I've come across online is dated June 2, 2003.

Another version of the story attributed to the "Maryland Church News," was published in the 1997 edition of The Speaker's Quote Book by Roy B. Zuck (Kregel Publications):

An atheist complained to a friend because Christians have their special holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, and Jews celebrate their national holidays, such as Passover and Yom Kippur. "But we atheists," he said, "have no recognized national holiday. It is unfair discrimination."
To which his friend replied, "Why don't you celebrate April first?"

And yet another, more minimal variant was published seven years before that in, of all places, an advertisement for Sunday church services in the Wellsboro, Pennsylvania Gazette, March 28, 1990:

April 1st - National Atheist's Holiday
"The Fool hath said in his heart
there is no God." Psalm 14:1
Come celebrate this gala event
with us on Sunday
Lambs Creek Bible Church
Mansfield, PA

Lastly, the more complex form of the joke we're familiar with today was presaged by this one-liner from famous Borscht Belt comedian Henny Youngman (1906-1998):

I once wanted to become an atheist, but I gave up — they have no holidays.

Take that, atheists!