Monday, October 4, 2010

"When Multiculturalism Doesn't Work"

The Globe and Mail had this interesting article on Friday on the topic of religious accommodation in Quebec, a province where conflicts between minority religious groups and the government have been especially acute.

Although I'm sympathetic to the argument that religions shouldn't receive "special rights" or "special exemptions" from generally applicable laws, I tend to believe in the doctrine of reasonable accommodation for two main reasons: (1) legislation will always tend to accord with the religious beliefs of the majority of the population (e.g., mainstream Christians in Canada rarely need religious accommodation) and (2) forcing individuals to choose between sincerely held religious beliefs and participation in civic society (schools, employment, etc.) is unconscionable. Thus, I think Sikh police officers should be able to wear turbans on duty, Orthodox Jews should be accorded flexibility on work holidays, etc., assuming of course that in each case no undue hardships would be created.

I would naturally extend this principle to apply to similar sincerely held beliefs of a secular nature (e.g., vegetarianism, pacifism, and others).

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