How far should institutions go to accommodate religion?
York University is grappling with a question of equality, after a student says he didn't want to be in a study group with women because of his religious beliefs. We convene a panel to discuss religious accommodations in Canada and ask: Is there a hierarchy when it comes to human rights?
They say male equals female, therefore they are equal and there is no difference and should be no difference between them. Well, that's not what the Bible says.- Televangelist Pat Robertson
Televangelists aren't alone in believing religion creates special divisions between men and women....
A sociology professor at Toronto's York University received an unusual -- and to his mind, intolerable -- request from a student. Paul Grayson offers a course for students to take online, but they are expected to appear in person for a study group.
One student asked to be excused because his beliefs forbid contact with women in a public place. Professor Grayson does not know what religion the student follows. He took his concerns to the university administration, which ordered him to accomodate the student's request. That decision didn't sit well with Professor Grayson.
One could also request exemptions with interactions with blacks, Jews, gays, you name it, because in the Bible or in religious practice, basically, there is encouragement not to interact with certain kinds of individuals. And if this kind of accommodation were granted, then surely if one's behaving logically, those other kinds of accommodations would have to be granted as well. Needless to say that is equally unacceptable. It's bad enough that females are treated this way but that opens the door to other possibilities as well.- Paul Grayson, York University Professor
Ultimately the student decided to attend the co-ed group, but that hasn't stopped the debate over how far Canadians should go when it comes to accommodating religion.
- Cara Zwibel is a lawyer and director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. She was in Toronto.
- Carissima Mathen is an associate professor of law at the University of Ottawa.
- Menachem Freedman is a third year law student at McGill University and a social justice activist. We reached him in Montreal.
What are your thoughts on this discussion on religious accommodation?
This segment was produced by The Current's Sarah Grant, Karin Marley and Alexa Huffman.