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Why people of faith should be angry with York University
Maclean's ^ | JANUARY 17, 2014 | Emma Teitel

Posted on 01/18/2014 2:33:29 PM PST by rickmichaels

In September, a sociology student at Toronto’s York University emailed his professor with an unusual request: He asked to be exempt, on religious grounds, from attending the online course’s only in-person, student-led study session. It wasn’t group work that he said his faith forbade (a prohibition I imagine many of us would wholeheartedly endorse) but the act of merely existing in mixed company. In the student’s own words: “One of the main reasons I have chosen Internet courses to complete my B.A. is due to my firm religious beliefs . . . It will not be possible for me to meet in public with a group of women (the majority of my group) to complete some of these tasks.” J. Paul Grayson, the course’s professor, denied the student’s religious accommodation request. Faith-based rights should not undermine women’s rights, he argued.

Grayson’s dean, however, with the backing of York’s administration, disagreed. Martin Singer, York’s dean of arts, insisted that Grayson grant the student’s request for a woman-less semester because his quiet abstention from the class’s group work wouldn’t openly discriminate against his female peers. In other words, what York’s women didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them, so why not make the accommodation? Today, everybody in the country knows, and we aren’t hurt. We’re mad. From campus feminists to the likes of Conservative Justice Minister Peter MacKay, there is hardly a soul left in Canada who has not thrown shade at York’s administration—ever willing, apparently, to tolerate intolerance in the name of political correctness.

More maddening than its sexist kowtowing is the school’s hearty appetite for fictitious religious dogma. What’s gone practically unnoticed in this spirited debate about accommodation is the very thing that renders it moot. The religious proscription on which Grayson’s student based his accommodation request (thou shalt not be seen in public with women) may boil your blood, or make you want to renounce God almighty, but chances are it doesn’t exist. The boring truth is that neither Orthodox Judaism nor Islam, nor any noteworthy religion on the planet, forbids its adherents from meeting members of the opposite sex in public.

A Muslim scholar wrote to the professor assuring him that physical encounters aside, “there is absolutely no justification for not interacting with females in public space.” Even those Orthodox Jews who observe the laws of shomer negiah, which forbid physical contact with the opposite sex, are not life-long agoraphobics. At the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto—a coed private Jewish high school a few blocks from my childhood home—students who observe the no-touch edict study alongside Jews as scripturally inclined as I am. A former student says that in her time there she saw many a flustered pubescent Orthodox boy throw up his arms in defeat and proclaim “Shomer negiah!” upon accidentally bumping into a secular female classmate. Some accommodation.

Unless Grayson’s assigned group activity was a dance number, his student’s request to abstain from meeting with female peers in public is about as divinely inspired as Jesus Christ Superstar. Yet York’s administration took it at face value. They didn’t bother requesting “that the student present evidence concerning the religious obligations involved,” as their accommodation policy allows them to do when instructor and student don’t meet eye to eye on an accommodation request. In fact, York’s religious accommodation policy is as outrageously flexible as my alma mater’s H1N1 prevention policy, which stipulated that if you so much as sneezed you could skip your scheduled exams sans sick note. (Telling a professor you were feeling under the weather was all it took to avoid campus responsibilities at Dalhousie University in 2010). I bet I could enrol at York tomorrow and request an exemption from all exams held in the cafeteria because its ham and cheese sandwiches offend my Semitic sensibilities.

There’s a big difference, though, between the schools’ overly flexible policies: Dalhousie’s H1N1 policy, albeit a godsend for opportunistic slackers, probably prevented a lot of people from getting sick; York’s timid policy of unreasonable accommodation makes people sick, not with an illness of the flesh but with paranoia. When institutions accommodate religious practices that don’t exist, when they equate ignorant compliance with cultural sensitivity, they spread poisonous untruths about the people they’re trying to protect. It’s not York’s female students who have greatest cause to be angry with the school for gladly accommodating a sexist request, but its people of faith. Clearly York doesn’t think very highly of them, not highly enough anyway, to check their deepest-held beliefs against those of an undergraduate smart-ass making up his religion as he goes along.

TOPICS: Education; Religion; Society

1 posted on 01/18/2014 2:33:29 PM PST by rickmichaels
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To: rickmichaels

Everyone seems determined not to say what the student’s religion is. The Professor says he guesses that the student is Muslim or Orthodox Jewish. The administration isn’t talking, and neither is the writer.

Well, then, what’s his name on the class list? If it’s Mohammed, then probably he’s not Orthodox Jewish.

I’d also venture a guess that all these people, including the present writer, probably know what his religion is, but they don’t want to say. That also points to his being a Muslim. I doubt whether all these politically correct people would be bothered in the least about riling an Orthodox Jew.

2 posted on 01/18/2014 2:49:50 PM PST by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: rickmichaels
Much ado about nothing, and frankly I side with the Dean on this. IF it's actually possible for him to complete the coursework requirements without meeting with anyone in public, and if he says this is his religion, and it harms NO ONE to accommodate him, then the fact that the author of this piece can't find a religion in which to pigeonhole the student's beliefs as "valid" is nothing more than officious meddling.

A dharma for one is still a dharma. It's not as if the student is claiming that he needs to be excluded from having his picture taken for an ID card, the purpose of which is to -- strangely enough -- identify people, and exemption from which infringes a valid legal purpose.

If anyone is being "politically correct" here it's the author of the piece, who seems to believe that the imagined slights to women who wouldn't even have known the student was missing are more important than the student's principles, however silly they might be. They're not. Group "feminism" doesn't trump individual rights, even when they're dumb.

3 posted on 01/18/2014 3:26:40 PM PST by FredZarguna (Das is nicht richtig nur falsch. Das ist nicht einmal falsch.)
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To: FredZarguna

My feeling is that if your religious sensibilities are so tender, you should go to a school run by your faith or your extreme branch of it. He knew the requirements of the course when he signed up. There’s no way something like “not associating with members of the opposite sex” should get him a special accommodation. (Not to mention....what’s he going to do when he wants a job?)

People whose religious requirements are so special, be they Orthodox Jews or Muslims or anything else , should go to a private faith-based school.

4 posted on 01/18/2014 3:57:15 PM PST by livius
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To: livius
Sorry, but I can't agree. Most schools in the US receive some form of subsidy from the government, as do schools in Canada. For an American, there's something call the First Amendment, which contains an implicit right -- recognized numerous times in the case law -- called the Right of Free Association. No school that receives public money should be permitted to deny it, unless they can show a compelling interest.

There is no compelling interest in this case. It's a "study session," and physical attendance really isn't necessary. Everybody should obey the rules in school that make sense: necessary requirements, discipline, and so on. And by the same token, NO ONE should be obligated to follow a rule which makes no sense. Schools are in many ways little tyrannies, and "Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God."[Jefferson.]

This is simply the desire of a teacher [and more broadly, a busybody, limp-wristed, feminized society] to trample on an individual's rights with no justifying purpose whatsoever except: "we want it this way."

Conservatives shouldn't be on board with that.

5 posted on 01/18/2014 4:06:54 PM PST by FredZarguna (Das is nicht richtig nur falsch. Das ist nicht einmal falsch.)
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To: livius
Not to mention....what’s he going to do when he wants a job?

That's a separate issue which has nothing to do with this one. The school doesn't care if he's the least bit employable and neither does the screeching author of this piece.

Maybe he'll work as a call center helpdesk clerk. Many of them work out of their own homes. Maybe he's just pathologically shy and is hiding behind his "religion." Doesn't make any difference in my book. Trying to justify browbeating a person with an obvious personality disorder for "his own good" sounds a lot to me like telling fat people they can't have over-large sugary drinks -- as defined by some little dork mayor with a Napoleon Complex -- because they're hurting themselves.

He's not asking the school to stand on its head to accommodate him, far from it. And the teacher and other pressure groups aren't trying to force him to bend his knee for his benefit. Far from it.

6 posted on 01/18/2014 4:13:12 PM PST by FredZarguna (Das is nicht richtig nur falsch. Das ist nicht einmal falsch.)
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To: rickmichaels

Having attended a University in Southern Ontario (namely the University of Guelph), I’m pretty familiar with the reputations that most of the better Ontario schools have (both good and bad). In the case of York, it’s become fairly notorious over the past few years for having become quite anti-semitic (it was the second University to host Israeli Apartheid Week, for example). Essentially, York is a radical muslim hotbed, and is known for that.
Hence, I would bet a twelve-pack of Timmies donuts that the student in question is a follower of Mohammed (pork be upon him).

7 posted on 01/18/2014 5:33:29 PM PST by Kriggerel ("All great truths are hard and bitter, but lies... are sweeter than wild honey" (Ragnar Redbeard))
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To: rickmichaels
J. Paul Grayson, the course’s professor, denied the student’s religious accommodation request. Faith-based rights should not undermine women’s rights, he argued.

That's the stupid thing about this story. There weren't any "women's rights" violated.

This isn't like that story about the sex-segregated karate class from a few days ago. He didn't demand that the women be removed from where they were entitled to be. He asked for himself to be placed elsewhere.

There's no "women's right" to compel a male student to belong to their study group when he wants to be elsewhere. The male student's religious rights, whatever they happen to be, are not in conflict with any other rights in this situation.

Instead, the university, then the media, then the whole country flipped out over nothing.

8 posted on 01/18/2014 7:48:12 PM PST by RansomOttawa (tm)
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