Why people of faith should be angry with York University

It’s not just female students who should be concerned

Pawel Dwulit/Getstock

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.




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Why people of faith should be angry with York University

  1. I don’t necessarily think that this particular instance falls into this category, but I do think that it can be a slippery slope for people of religion X, Y or Z (or atheists) to proclaim “That’s not a religious practice for people of religion Q”. Religion isn’t simply a social institution, it’s a matter of personal conscience. What a person believes is what a PERSON believes, it’s between that person and their God, and people are free to believe whatever they like. The extent to which we make public accommodations of those beliefs is where things get really complicated.

    Of course, this doesn’t mean we can or should accommodate every possible religious belief under the sun, or that a person’s individual belief need only be sincerely held as an individual in order to be protected as an expression of religious freedom. As I said, I think this instance may well fall into an unprotected category, and I’m not particularly in favour of York’s position. However, you could find a Muslim or Christian or Jewish scholar who would argue that all sorts of precepts aren’t necessary to that faith, or proscribed by their God, and in many cases simultaneously find scholars in the minority of said religion who disagree. I happen to believe that the wearing of the hijab should be protected for those who believe that it is important to their relationship with God and their demonstration of their faith, but we all know that we could line up a dozen Muslim scholars who say that the hijab has nothing to do with Islam.

    In a way, it’s a testament to how free we are in Canada that we’re now really getting down to the nitty gritty in terms of what should, and should not, be protected. Practically speaking, however, that’s also where the decisions start to get pretty hard, as we need to begin to parse where to draw the line between a religious conviction sincerely held by a single individual, and a conviction universally recognized by millions of adherents of a major, long-established faith.

    • Don’t drag atheists into this nonsense.

      The idea that ‘girls have cooties’ has done immeasurable harm in the world and York has just added to it.

      • As I tried to say, I think that in this case an accommodation should not be granted, but I don’t think I “dragged atheists into it”. I happen to be an atheist myself, and I know that it’s sometimes atheists who are out there saying “X is not a precept of religion Y”. My point is simply that it’s not up to people outside of religion Y to say what is or is not a tenet of that faith, and there are often even disagreements within a religion which need to be acknowledged. People of religion A, B or C, (or atheists), should certainly all be involved in the conversation as to whether a particular tenet of religion Y should be accommodated by broader society, of course, but it’s not up to them to proclaim whether or not it is a religious belief or obligation. I just don’t think that we should be judging the personal decisions of conscience that people make to the extent that this can be avoided. The discussion shouldn’t usually be about whether a practice is a matter of religious conviction or not, imho, as that is a matter of conscience. The discussion should be about whether a particular practice should be accommodated.

        • The only interest atheists have in any of these ‘angels on a pin’ arguments…..is to see them banned from public life.

          • I’m not sure it’s fair for you to speak on behalf of all atheists here. I’m an atheist, and I’m certainly not interested in seeing discussion of religion “banned from public life” in a general sense. To me, that’s the type of thinking that leads to things like the Quebec “Values Charter”, or Sikh kids being banned from playing soccer.

          • Nobody speaks on behalf of all atheists because they only have one thing in common…..you don’t share that as you aren’t an atheist.

            It isn’t a fashion thing you know.

          • The thing atheists have in common is a rejection of the belief in deities, or more precisely the rejection of the notion that deities exist at all. It doesn’t follow that to be an atheist one must oppose the discussion of deities, or religion generally, in public life.

            Frankly, the fact that you believe that you can declare that someone you have never met is not an atheist, full stop, is the exact issue I’m discussing. You’re not the arbiter of who is or is not an atheist any more than a particular Christian scholar is the arbiter of who is or is not a Christian.

          • I stopped believing in atheism when its practitioners began proselytizing. ;-)

          • Again you are off on a tangent….you can DISCUSS anything you like. What you may not do is force your religious beliefs on others through the mechanisms of govt.

            Again….you are not an atheist. You are like a fish that doesn’t know it lives in water. Why any atheist would want to discuss religion……….

          • Says the woman who pontificates on religion on practically every thread on Macleans where it comes up…

          • One has to pontificate A LOT to clock in the number of comments that Emily does. She will hit 12K today!

          • I don’t believe in the existence of any deity or deities.

            What tenant of atheism are you suggesting that I’m failing to follow that makes me “not an atheist”?

          • She is just using you to hit a milestone….only 15 more comments and she hits the 12,0000 mark! Woo Hoo!

          • LOL!!!

          • You think she gets a bonus when she hits 12k?

          • SHE probably thinks so…

            And that’s just under this most recent name, which she began using about two years ago. She has gone under a number of variations, all with high counts (though this moniker has the highest, as far as I know)

          • Again you are off on a tangent….you can DISCUSS anything you like.

            You JUST SAID that the only interest atheists have is to see these discussions banned from public life.

          • You gonna play reindeer games again LKO?

            You can talk about UFO’s, gods, fairies and elves if you like in your private life….however all those topics are banned from any influence on PUBLIC LIFE.

            You knew what I meant….it’s just a compulsion with you to argue.

          • Since when is the discussion of UFOs or gods or fairies and elves banned from public life? Do universities no long give degrees in religious studies? Has The Hobbit been pulled from school and university reading lists?

          • Like I said you know exactly what I mean….you just like to natter on.

          • You are RIGHT ON TARGET……….religious beliefs should NOT be forced on anyone. Government employees, Police.. must wear IMPARTIAL attire that does not FORCE thier obvious religion on anyone. What they wear OFF THE JOB is their choice.

          • Clothing isn’t forcing your beliefs on anyone….and what about nuns and priests?

          • Individuals do NOT obtain Drivers Licenses, permits ect. from priests, or Nuns

            A Turban on an individual Official WILL upset those who have had unpleasant (old world) memories of this religion.
            THEY SHOULD NOT BE SUBJECT TO THIS….Officials should NOT display RELIGIOUS PARAPHERNALIA..they should

            be completely neutral.
            Just give it a little thought…….IT IS PART OF CANADA BEING FREE FROM RELIGIONS INTIMIDATION.

          • I’m sorry….you are trying to justify racism with silliness.

            Priests and nuns have been in schools for generations….still are.

            Clothes scare you do they? LOL

          • You obviously have little contact and interaction with other races and religions.(my wife and I have)
            For example :An R.C.M.P. officer wearing a Turban has an adverse effect (when stopping ) those whose who have experienced serious clashes in the old world with this religion. They SHOULD NOT BE SUBJECT TO THIS TRAUMA here in Canada.
            Would a Jewish Gentleman(or woman) be comfortable with an obvious Muslim (or vice verse) giving him/her a drivers test?

            Priests and Nuns in schools and Hospitals are a Canadian tradition………..They DO NOT REPRESENT GOVERNMENTS (Provincial or Federal)
            Sorry ..you are appearing to demonstrate the “tunnel vision” of the” Politically correct”………..unfortunately one of the Major reasons our Western Political and Justice systems are in the crapper…..Sad for us ALL:<

          • DO stop being silly.

          • She sure thinks she is, though. Both an expert on all religions, and the beliefs of every public figure who ever lived. We’ve had many exchanges (won’t call them discussions as on her part it was merely pontificating) on this issue.

          • I am an thiest as well, but I don’t share Emily’s apparent hostility towards people of faith; unless of course we are talking about the extremist variety.
            My neighbour is a Christian, he’s married, has four kids, and goes to church each Sunday.
            His family doesn’t steal, lie, cheat, or beat up on other kids in the neighbourhood. When it snows, he’s prone to pick up a shovel and help the older folks clear their walkways. He and his entire family work with local charities, and work as volunteers in the community.
            I can see why Emily hates people like this so much….
            Wouldn’t want that sort of behaviour breaking out all over the place now would we…….

          • Great explanation. I too am an atheist, and I get far more angry at the militant atheists who are all about hating people of faith. Idiots like Emily completely refuse to acknowledge that religion is simply one of many aspects that make an individual who they are. What’s even worse is that she seems to think it’s okay to attack people of some religions, but not others. She says things like she doesn’t want people pushing their religion down her throat, but she’s more than happy to push her religion down others’.

          • Hmmm Overtime again tonight Rick? HQ must be in a lather.

          • Many atheists agree that religious societies maintain a moral standard and atheistic societies tend to be less moral – assuming that you are an atheist that believes there is value in morals and ethics.

          • Sure, and many atheists think that’s poppycock.

            Many would argue that it’s easier to be “moral” if you believe that a magical being with omnipotent super powers will punish you for eternity if you’re not.

          • You mean you would like to censor free speech? Muzzle the freedom to express views and banter about beliefs and values. Are you sure you are an athiest? Because you are sounding a lot like a religious zealot who wants to shut everyone else up who doesn’t agree with your belief system. Way to go, with your contributing to ignorance and free speech.

          • Canada already has limits on free speech.

            We also have separation of church and state.

          • Yes, so let’s have freedom of speech and freedom of religion banned from public life. Atheism is just as much of a type of religion as any other. (Can you PROVE with evidence that something does not exist? Indeed not. Thus, you must take it on faith). Should we ban your arguments too, then?

          • Are you normally this stupid?

        • I don’t think Emma suggested that York should have decided what was an accepted tenet of the faith. What she suggested was that the student in question be asked to present evidence that it is an accepted tenet, which is perfectly reasonable. If a believe is held by an mass institution like a church, there is evidence. And if someone subscribes to that belief, they most likely have that evidence on hand.

          • True, and I certainly didn’t mean my comment to be a criticism of this piece per se. My concern is just whenever I see mention that a (or several) Muslim scholars say X, or Christian scholars say Y. Religion is a tricky thing, and there’s plenty of disagreement within various faiths. For me, it’s the hijab example that best demonstrates my concern. I personally think that the wearing of the hijab should be protected, and accommodated as appropriate, but I’m nonetheless aware that one could line up dozens of Muslim scholars who would argue that it should not be. The first question in my mind is two fold, is the belief sincerely held, and how widely accepted/practiced is it? The first is difficult to determine. The second is easier to establish, but the question is, where do we draw the line? What if it’s 10% of Christians who believe X? What if it’s 1%? What if it’s 50 people in a single church in Northern Saskatchewan? Heck, what if it’s just one lady somewhere, but accommodating the particular belief in question is an extremely simple matter that would cause no disruption to her fellow citizens?

            I guess my main point is simply that even the more “obvious” decisions aren’t necessarily as simple as they may appear at first blush, and that we need to be careful that we not let the “easy” decisions impact our thinking too much on the more difficult one’s, or accidentally fall in to a pattern of not giving these types of issues the serious thought that they deserve.

          • Well, as religion become more and more a matter of individual choice, accommodation is going to become more and more difficult.

            Dealing with me on this file is going to be easier because I’m Catholic, so what I believe is written in a fairly thick book known as the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” and there are authorities who overrule me on matters of faith and morals. So if I was that York student, York University could just call up the Bishop’s office.

            I wonder as well Kitchener, since we can’t really tell what people’s religious beliefs are, and whether or not we can accommodate them is rather fuzzy, what is the liability concern? How can one defend oneself from frivolous lawsuits or Human Rights Tribunal complaints without expending legal fees and time?

          • I just have to note that I think confusing personal moral beliefs (or spirituality) with religion or religious belief is one of the fundamental problems with this decision. Simply because someone says they believe something, doesn’t make it a religious belief (even if they derived it from a holy book) – just think about Catholicism; for centuries Catholics were not even alowed to interpret the bible. A religion is an incorporated institution. I hold many moral beliefs that differ from those accepted by the society I live in (and sometimes the way society tramples on these beliefs makes me angry), but I don’t think that I have the right to have my beliefs accomodated ( and as an aside: let alone enforced) simply because I believe them. And judging by the other article you linked, neither did this student; at the same time, there’s nothing wrong with him making the request. I suppose I just don’t see religious accomodation as ambiguously as you do (though accomodation in general certainly is). The hijab, in my opinion, is a straightforward matter: there are clearly sects of Islam that belief it is essential to there faith, and even were it not, the wearing harms noone else, hence it should be accomodated.

          • It’s a fascinating debate, to be sure.

            I would say that while one definition of “a religion” may well be “an incorporated institution” it doesn’t necessarily follow, philosophically, that multiple people need to believe something, or follow a practice, for said belief or practice to be “religious”. To me, freedom of religion means the freedom to to hold religious BELIEFS, not just the freedom to belong to a particular group that shares a set of beliefs. It’s an INDIVIDUAL freedom with an implied link to the freedom of association, but your freedom of religious belief should exist absent a second person who believes as you do, as far as I’m concerned. The freedom implies the freedom to worship with others, but I don’t think that you should need to worship with others, or believe as others do, per se, for your freedom of religion to apply. That doesn’t make every moral or ethical belief a religious one, nor does it follow that society is under an obligation to accommodate every religious belief, of course.

            ETA: It should be noted that our freedom guaranteed by the constitution isn’t merely a freedom of religion. Section 2 (a) says that everyone has the fundamental freedom of CONSCIENCE and religion. In other words, a person’s INDIVIDUAL beliefs are explicitly protected as well, beyond any association with an organized religion.

        • Simply put: in Canada, this particular practice should not be accommodated.

          • I agree.

            What’s so fascinating about this case is that the belief WASN’T accommodated, and perhaps more importantly, that the student politely accepted that it wasn’t. The student thanked the professor for considering the accommodation, acknowledged that one’s personal beliefs can’t always be accommodated by society, and DID THE ASSIGNMENT.

            I think it’s important to note in all the heat of this debate that the student, so far as I’m concerned, did everything right. I’d argue that even if the student had appealed the decision through the proper channels that would STILL be an example of the student acting appropriately. Of course, what would have been interesting in that case is that HAD the student appealed, the Dean, it would seem, would have overruled the instructor and granted the accommodation, which would have been an interesting twist on the story (though that would have had little effect on the debate generally, given that it is nonetheless common knowledge now that the Dean’s office disagreed with the instructor’s actions).

        • Besides, atheism is a religion of sorts, the absence of religion and more pragmatic thinking for ones self.

          Besides, advanced learning is supposed to be about setting aside myths and learn real open minded outlook on learning.

          Prof should fail the idiots that say women should not attend. As obviously their minds are not rational enough to be worthy of a degree.

      • You have that right, Emily. I as an Atheist I am respectful and tolerant to those who may not agree with my viewpoint(wife of 47 happy years is a devoted Catholic)
        Those individuals (or religions) that DO NOT respect women as “equals” Have nothing but my absolute contempt.

      • I love your analogy. I too once had the misconception of “girls cooties” but grew out of the irrational nonsense when the hormones kicked in.

        But religion is about “blind faith” acceptance of idiocracy. I know of no religion that embraces reality, fosters critical and pragmatic thinking, or rational deductive thought, they rely on people being naive as to get power and control.

        Anyone want a graduate dentist thinking more of you being a infidel than what they are doing in your mouth?

        • ‘Cooties’ is another cultural imposition. Boys and girls only dislike each other if they’re taught to.

          Yes, religion is about blind faith by the gullible.

          However there is no reason to worry about dentists thinking you’re a Muslim.

          • Ah yes, blind faith, that old simplistic statement painting billions of people with the same brush. How ignorant of you. If you would actually stop and get to know people who have faith, instead of criticize and slander them from behind the cowardly screen of your computer, you would likely find out that many of them struggle and wrestle and doubt and wonder about what they believe. They change their mind many times, grow and evolve in their thinking. Maybe you should try that as well.

          • I am not intered in religion or religious people.

    • Honestly, the whole religious angle is a red herring. What if he had a social anxiety problem that wanted to keep him from meeting with groups of women. Should he be forced into the group sessions anyway if there was some other alternative that was acceptable for the course?

      I’m all for making whatever accommodations are reasonable for a person for any reason, religious belief, social phobias, hell, even ignorant racism. Provided it doesn’t affect the other members of the group in a negative way, and provided there is some sort of alternative that’s acceptable, why the hell not?

      • I believe you are absolutely right. Online courses are offered for people who can’t or won’t attend (for whatever reason) the campus. When administrators add in an “in-person group project”, they must keep in mind that there will be those who cannot participate for whatever reason. I am certain they have other online work they assign in those cases. How could anyone who is getting a degree from a distance ever finish otherwise?

      • So the criterion should be whether there is a legitimate requirement, for successful completion of the course, for direct contact with other people of both sexes. Probably a valid requirement for many types of course, though we do not generally write it into the calendar!

    • Why accommodate any religion? School is about advanced learning, developing rationality and pragmatic thinking…..

    • I agree with you, Lord_Kitcheners. I think that that boy is allowed to believe what he wants. If he is just as able to do the project online without meeting those women, he has the right to it. It doesn’t matter what the “majority” opinion is, especially because Islam has many different sects and even many different practices within those sects.

      The boy may harbor sexism, but he did not tell those women that THEY could not meet up to discuss their group project, only that HE could not be in their presence. He did not inflict any harm upon them. I, as a woman, think that not being able to be in the same presence as another person of the opposite sex will be hindering for him in the future. However, to be offended by this is ridiculous. If this were a case of an all-female school disallowing a boy to enter for a coed project, we would not even be having this discussion on sexism. There are still all female schools and all male schools. Are those inherently sexist?

      My answer is no, not unless there are particularly better facilities at boy’s schools or at girl’s schools because they are for boys or for girls. The boy in this article got no better treatment than the women within the class. Sure, he didn’t have to attend something that was against his personal beliefs, but perhaps he did an alternative assignment instead (which is what we always had when we did not do something on account of sickness, religion, disability, etc.)

      Stop being so sensitive. As women and men in this era, we need to stop crying wolf at every story, regardless of content (WHAT? The President didn’t pick a female for X Y Z position? He must be sexist because out there there HAS to be a qualified female option…. Puhlease… Maybe he just picked the best candidate he had at the time?) Let people practice their beliefs unless it specifically harms you.

  2. I’m sorry, I can’t come in today. Religious holiday. The feast of… Maximum Occupancy.

  3. Not a bad piece, but really, isn’t religion just whatever people say it is? As a matter of faith, by its very nature it cannot be tested or “proved”. So if this guy said his religion forbids him from interacting with females, then I’m not sure what basis anyone would have to tell him he is wrong.
    York remains bafflingly in the wrong about this, of course. Their tortorous logic defies belief.
    However, I must take issue with the casual disrespect Ms. Teitel shows to Jesus Christ Superstar. It is in fact an excellent musical/opera that offers a thoughtful take on the role of Judas (I say this as a non-believer). It is doubtless more divinely inspired than the unnamed York students beliefs.

    • That first paragraph describes my worry. I get concerned when people argue that a particular practice is not a matter of religion, and start parsing what is and is not an acceptable religious belief for another person.

      Saying, “Society will not make accommodations for belief X” is one thing, and entirely appropriate, but I get uneasy when the language starts veering more into the realm of “Belief X is not a religious belief”.

      • Agreed. Parsing what is or is not a religious belief is useless. A religious belief is whatever someone says it is. It’s not like you can prove them wrong, as the entire subject is by definition not provable.
        So, while I believe any person can believe whatever they want, what they can’t do is ask others to support that belief (I recognize that certain rights tribunals think differently). If this fellow believes he can’t interact with women, then I guess he doesn’t have to interact with women. What he can’t do is require women to not interact with him.
        Well, according to York, he can.

    • My real concern with this and where I have support for York U’s position is that it was an on-line course. I have taken and continue to take on-line courses and there is no meeting up, because it is an on-line course.
      If you want people to meet up you cannot sell it as an on-line course.

      Anybody signing up for an on-line course who then is expected to complete an assignment that isn’t on-line has been defrauded. If an alternative assignment is available then they should be allowed to do that, no matter what reason they give for not wanting to meet up.

      The York Administrators knew this and that’s why they took the position they did. the other worry for them was the Instructor’s rationale behind his actions.
      The instructor did have such an assignment and had set it for someone else. He chose not to give it to this student purely on religious grounds – he disagreed with the guy’s religious beliefs. Nobody else’s Charter rights were being infringed and the Instructor discriminated against someone based on their religion.
      Legally the York U Admin were on perilous ground here, the actions of the instructor has left them open to legal action on breach of contract and religious discrimination.

      • This is exactly my point but much better articulated. Given the nature of online courses, they probably exempt MANY from “meeting up”…in fact almost anyone who balks at doing so because let’s face it, you choose an online course because you don’t want to “meet up”. My question is who violated this person’s privacy by disclosing the nature of his request for exemption to “meeting up”? York should be sued for that violation.

        • So then York is at fault for asking an on-line student to do an assignment that required him to meet with others. Perhaps instead of sparking such a hullaballoo the university should have assessed their course requirements. Why should this student or any others be placed in the public glare of the media for all to see when the issue is really a course design flaw? Shame on York!!

          • You are of course welcome to your sarcasm but you must admit that if a student wants to do group assignments with other students, then the student signs up for in-class studies and not online courses. There are actually people who are incarcerated in Canada who are doing on-line degrees. They would have to be to be exempt from attended the campus for obvious reasons. Graham James was just such a person who obtained an online BA while incarcerated. Is I raped young boys and am In prison so I can’t come to class a better excuse for receiving an exemption in your mind? Hello! Obviously plenty of exemptions are being handed out for plenty of reasons. This is the first time it is getting national play and the prof didn’t even know what religion the student was or apparently care to find out. Shame on York indeed!

          • It wasn’t the university who took things to the media, but rather the prof. As far as I’m aware, the student’s identity was not disclosed to media by the university. The prof himself acted rather unusually, although I believe his intentions were honest. Not wanting to make a unilateral decision, he referred the case to the university admin. When the answer wasn’t what he wanted, he then undertook to overturn it, and ultimately took the case public because he didn’t agree. The irony is the prof talked to the student and they came to an agreement. Informal resolution is what he should have started with if he was comfortable with only one interpretation. The thing the university did that was puzzling was, after the prof and student had come to an agreement, continue to try to push the issue.

      • Broadly I agree – and it’s this distinction/unique aspect of the story that often gets lost here. The student was not asking the institution to change its operations to accomodate his religion, he was seeking a way of engaging in public education that still fit his religious preferences. York’s prof, by giving in-person assignments for those in the city, changed the nature of the course – it was presented as an online course, others were able to take it online and not meet up if they were out of town, why not simply extend this to the student? Accomodation is always contextual – the answer if the student had signed up for an in-person course would surely have been different.

  4. I don’t think religion needs to be addressed in this at all; there is no acceptable excuse for a person who refuses to study or work with other human beings. I don’t care if its women, disabled people, or whatever demographic you want to provide: it’s up to him to figure out how to accommodate his ideas, not the rest of the world. York made a big mistake. They should be advised of that in no uncertain terms. They acquiesced to an unreasonable expectation. One wonders why.

    • So people with anxiety disorders.. they should just be forced into working with other people even if they’ve found ways to avoid doing so?

      • I was thinking the exact same thing. Are we going to rob people with social anxiety disorder of having an opportunity to be educated?

      • They have a note from a doctor. They attend counselling. They have been diagnosed. You can’t just walk into school, self-declare yourself to have an anxiety disorder and be exempt from exams….but at York you can do just that if you simply self-declare it a religious thing. Relevant quote from the article you may have missed: ” They didn’t bother requesting “that the student present evidence concerning the religious obligations involved,”

        • Why offer an online course if it isn’t really strictly online?

          • This is a fair point; online courses are often used to overcome distance and having an in-person component seems wrong. This in no way addresses Emma’s article, but it is relevant to the entire issue here.

          • My only reason for raising the issue is that perhaps exemptions are commonly handed out for a variety of reasons given that the course is online. Therefore, it might not be such a stretch that they would provide exemptions and allow students to do extra assignments online instead of doing group work.

          • Any decent online program has a resident requirement. Online works to replace some lectures but it can’t replace everything (very well.)

            It’s a long drive to Toronto, and I would rather take all the boring lecture stuff online and only make the drive for the in person elements. Classes that are online clearly state the resident components. This wasn’t a surprise to the student, he knew going in there was residence component.

          • Where does that leave the people who live in the far north? What is the purpose of having online programs at universities if not to reach out to those who live in isolation andt cannot “drive into Toronto?” Are you forgetting that guests of Canadian prisons are getting educations online? How is THAT being accomplished because they obviously cannot attend in-person group projects. I am guessing they get an exemption.

          • Sigh. Would someone in the far north Sign up for a course that has an in person component? Go to Athabsca. If you want to take this course, at York there is an on person requirement. Got that?

          • Just for the record, apparently people living OUTSIDE OF CANADA were enrolled in this exact course. That’s one of the aspects of the story that some people find “controversial” – people in this student’s own class were allowed to opt out of the group work because travelling to Canada was impractical for them.

          • Sigh….The Dean of York University announced that a person had been given an exemption because they lived outside the country. Read the next comment by LKO….apparently you don’t know all you think you know about York University. They enroll international students in their online courses. Got THAT?

          • That is irrelevant to the topic

          • Perhaps it is relevant IF York gave exemptions to other students who asked for them for exemptions on the grounds that they couldn’t or wouldn’t like to opt in to the in-person project.

    • York made a big mistake. They should be advised of that in no uncertain terms. They acquiesced to an unreasonable expectation.

      An important thing to note, that I didn’t realize at first either, is that the request for accommodation was actually NOT acquiesced to.

      When the professor said “No”, the student in question politely accepted the negative response, acknowledged that he can’t expect his personal beliefs to always be accommodated by society at large, and did the group work as assigned.

      The controversy exists because the Dean’s office disagrees with the instructor’s decision, and argues that the accommodation SHOULD have been granted. So, just for the record, the “mistake” isn’t actually that the accommodation was granted (it wasn’t), the mistake is that the University administration is arguing that the decision not to grant the accommodation was the wrong decision.

  5. Why is anyone surprised by this story?
    Sheesh….SUNTV has only been on the air for a few years, and they’ve been harping on this extremist ideology from day one. Nice to see the CBC and others finally get the hint.
    You can certainly expect more of this…..just look to Britain if you want to know where we’re headed if we don’t publicly condemn such foolish requests and put a stop to this idiocy.
    Start by firing the dean who ordered the accomodation. It’s the mealy mouthed politically correct cowards that enable this.

  6. I thought orthodox jews and muslim men could interact with women as long as they were dressed appropriately. Muslim or orthodox men at york would have to deal with women who are not dressing appropriately by their religious standards. It seems to me the religious person has tried to reconcile his religious beliefs with living in 21st Canada by taking online courses.

    It seems odd to offer online courses and then have a component where everyone has to meet on campus. What is the point of online courses if you still have to go to campus and interact with others? There must be all sorts of maladies that make online learning more attractive to people than going to campus for 3 or 4 years.

    • I agree that it seems odd for an online course to have a module that requires physical attendance; kind of defeats the purpose. Though we’ve now wandered off topic…

      • I think its dumb to have requirement to have people meet when it is online course. There are many people with all sorts of physical and mental conditions that would be helped by staying home and studying.

        • My girlfriend has a lung condition that requires she be on oxygen. She is doing courses online partly for that reason – so I can certainly sympathize with those who have such needs. But if the requirement was set out in the syllabus [I'm assuming it was; if not, it would be a ground of objection in and of itself], the student should have followed up before signing up for the course.

          • He may have done so but when he contacted the professor, he was obviously exempted. As you said before, it is very odd to have online courses that involve any in-person project because many cannot attend easily. Some live great distances and cannot ever attend. Once a prof exempts some students, it probably becomes a matter of how can you exempt one and not another?

          • Did you mean “not exempted”? As for exempting one but not another… different reasons have to be examined on their own merits.

      • Actually, I believe it has a lot to do with the topic. This person obviously did not want to attend in-person classes and thus chose on-line studies as did others who found in-person classes inconvenient or impossible. York had no issue with providing exemptions for various reasons. The media and politicians have jumped on this particular case but obviously many people ask for the same exemption for different reasons and are not denied.

        • See the response I just posted to Hester…

  7. I am not making a judgement on the situation at York in this post, but some factual clarification is needed here regarding claims about the Jewish community both in this article and in the discussion writ large around this issue. It is certainly true that the male and female students at the Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto — a few blocks from my home as well – study together in the same classroom. And It also true that a number of Orthodox Jews observe ‘shomer negiah’ – the edict which concerns ONLY PHYSICAL touching of the other gender. There are, however, small communities of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Toronto and elsewhere who do indeed follow the convention to avoid social / professional interactions where possible with members of the other gender. This is not a widespread practice, but neither is it extremely obscure. I by no means support such an attitude towards gender relations, but as a sociologist who studies Jewish communities I am certainly aware of it. When evaluating cases of religious accommodation it is important to be knowledgeable about the community in question.

    Prof. Randal Schnoor
    Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies / Sociology Department
    York University

      • Wikipedia down today?

    • You’re a brave man Professor Schnoor,

      I’ve seen some of the antics at York…….it must be difficult being Jewish during the “Anti-Apartheid” week commonly held at most Universities in Canada today.
      Keep fighting the good fight……
      And disregard anything you see written by EmilyOne. Her views on our Hebrew brothers and sisters is well known….and in fact, would fit in quite well with the aforementioned Anti’s above.

      • I am not jewish but the toronto public high school I attended in mid-80s was 80% jewish kids – my public school closed for jewish holidays because so few people would show up – and everyone I knew went to u of t or york. The jewish kids I went to school with thought of york as the jewish university. I am dumbfounded by what york is like now compared to back then.

    • Thank you for the information. Very interesting.

  8. I don’t agree with or pretend to understand why anyone would make this request or have these beliefs, and I’m sympathetic to the idea that harm is being done if the university
    starts formally accommodating prejudice, but I think this post and many other responses are presuming too much, and too quick to judge York University, which appears to have engaged in a misguided attempt to avoid offending anyone.

    First of all freedom of religion does not mean you have the freedoms as decided on by some scholar of the bible, Talmud or Koran, or some school near where the writer lives. Your beliefs are not subject to adjudication, whether by some religious expert or amateur observer. They are your beliefs, however ridiculous, and that should not disturb the religious freedom of anyone else however contradictory or similarly nonsensical they might be.

    If York University offered an online course that would tend to attract people who didn’t want to attend in person, whether for a ridiculous religious reason, a justifiable social anxiety or distance. It seems reasonable that if the university can deliver most of the course virtually that it would be a small matter to accomodate someone who wanted it to be 100% virtual. How does that affect student life on campus? Any other person?

    If the university were to create male only classrooms or even male only online classrooms that would justify this kind of reaction but this guy wasn’t trying to exclude others, he was trying to exclude himself.

    I personally think that if the university feels that participation in a group project is a critical part of the course (odd as that might be given the rest was virtual) it should have just marked him zero for the group assignment. That they didn’t is pretty typical for a bureaucracy interested in not making waves or law suits.

    That still doesn’t, however, make it the federal issue that nouveau feminist Peter MacKay or the author of this post seem to want to make it out to be.

    • I personally think that if the university feels that participation in a group project is a critical part of the course (odd as that might be given the rest was virtual) it should have just marked him zero for the group assignment. That they didn’t is pretty typical for a bureaucracy interested in not making waves or law suits.

      Ironically, I’m not 100% certain that it was ever determined that the student wouldn’t have compromised and done the assignment.

      From what I’ve read, the student politely asked if his belief system could be accommodated, and when the answer came back “no” his response was essentially “OK then. Thank you for considering my request”. Perhaps the student would have simply accepted a zero on that component of the course work, or perhaps he would have dropped the course, but we’ll never know, as the initial decision was reversed, it would seem, before the student had a chance to do anything beyond politely accept the “no” that he was given.

      ETA: I said above that I wasn’t 100% sure that the student wouldn’t compromise and do the assignment. It’s important to note that it turns out that, in fact, the student immediately accepted the instructor’s rejection of his request and DID THE ASSIGNMENT.

      • I am certain that York University and other universities must accommodate other students taking online courses that cannot attend the school to do group participation projects. I would think that a great number of online students are online because they cannot attend perhaps because they live a great distance from the university. I worked with a person who did their bachelor of nursing degree online at a university in Australia while living in Canada.

        • It has always struck me as odd that there would be an in-person component required – and an accommodation was made for another student in the same course due to the distance issue – a point raised by the Dean in deciding York should accommodate.

          But I’m not convinced that his religious belief was sufficient to warrant an exemption. He has to live in the greater society; this won’t be the only time he will have to interact with women.

          • It is very, very odd to have an in-person project in an on-line course and my guess is that because some people could not attend due to distance from the university, they were generous with any and all requests for exemptions to the in-person project.

        • Interestingly, I haven’t seen any coverage of whether or not the group work component was made clear to students when they registered for the online class. As you say, what if the request for accommodation had been “Can I get out of this group assignment please? I live in Germany.”?

          ETA: Apparently, students living too far from the campus WERE given the option of not participating in the group work. The instructor’s position is that a student not living in Canada is UNABLE to participate, whereas a student with a religious objection merely PREFERS NOT TO participate.

          • Interesting times…..that religious objection being a “prefers not to participate” almost sounds like the Quebec Values Charter whereby people of certain religious beliefs “prefer to wear religious symbols’ and therefore they really don’t need to be wearing them to work….just saying….

          • I’d say that the fact that people are sometimes forced to compromise their religious beliefs doesn’t make those beliefs any less sincere, and also that we should strive as a society to avoid putting people in the position of compromising said beliefs as much as possible. Frankly, it seems to me that this case was actually a case of that system working, and it’s just that the administration of the university disagrees with how it worked:

            Student makes request for religious accommodation.
            Request is denied.
            Student must now choose whether to compromise their religious belief, take zero on the assignment, drop the class, or appeal the decision.
            Student decides that this is an area of his faith on which he can accommodate society, as opposed to the other way around – completes group work assignment.

            It seems to me that this is exactly how things should work. The “controversy” was generated by the fact that the Dean’s office disagrees with the decision that the professor made at step two.

            I also think that we need to be careful to protect religious beliefs regardless of the consistency with which said beliefs are followed by people of faith. The test should be “is the belief sincerely held” not “is the adherent absolute and perfect in their adherence to said belief”. That a religious person may choose to compromise one of their religious beliefs when society is unwilling to accommodate it doesn’t make the belief any less sincere, imho, any more than society’s choice to accommodate certain beliefs means that society is endorsing said beliefs.

            Putting aside the particulars of any case (just to make the philosophical argument generally) I get uncomfortable when people assume that because a person or group makes the decision to compromise their beliefs on an issue (as an accommodation to society at large), that it necessarily follows that said belief was insincere to begin with, or “not really a religious conviction”. The “slippery slope” there (i.e. the extreme of that spectrum) would be if we threatened to, say, jail people for their religious beliefs. In such an atmosphere, people might choose to “sin” against their religion, rather than go to jail. It would not, imho, necessarily be a legitimate argument in such a case for someone to then argue after the fact, “See. If it was really a religious conviction, that person would have taken the jail time, so the fact that they compromised in order to avoid jail means it wasn’t a religious belief to begin with, and therefore it’s not a violation of that person’s religious freedom that we threatened them with jail for their beliefs”. Put another way, a person need not, imho, live a life free of sin in order to prove that their belief that X or Y is a sin is sincere. That society may place an individual in the position of compromising one of his or her religious beliefs, and the fact that said person then DOES compromise said belief, doesn’t make the belief “just a preference”. I can sincerely believe that I’ll be punished by God for committing a sin, even while deciding to commit said sin in order to keep my job (or avoid jail, or get to sit in Parliament, or…). I just don’t think that the choice of an individual to compromise their religious beliefs in the face of societal pressure is necessarily proof of the insincerity of said beliefs, or the unworthiness of said beliefs of constitutional protection.

          • What concerns me in this whole situation is that the university does make exemptions for people not to attend in person. That is a given otherwise people from other countries would not be signing up for courses online at York. This professor heard “religion” and decided (without even knowing what religion the student was) that his reason for requesting the exemption was not adequate. The prof let his own world view color his decision making. Then when the administration wanted to over-ride him, he publicized his discontent, knowing that religion is a hot-button subject. Meanwhile, other people are getting exemptions and not just for living a distance away from the universities. Do you realize that people like Graham James got a BA online while in prison? Do you think Graham attended any in-person group projects or was he exempted? Further what would the profs attitude been toward a person who disclosed they had been previously sexually assaulted on a university campus and were struggling with leaving the house? Would the prof have denied them exemption or publicized the issue? I doubt it. York is in the business to make money. They want online students and they are willing to be flexible.

      • I was assuming there was an appeal of some sort or how did it escalate beyond the professor? If there was no appeal, then never mind all the high mindedness about religious rights, York violated the first law of bureaucracy which is, if given the opportunity, do nothing.

        • Apparently York offered exemptions to at least one other student who could not do the in-person project due to living a far distance from the university. How does York provide exemptions for some online students and not others when people obviously study online because they cannot or do not wish to study in-person at the university?

          • The instructor’s position (along with that of his Department, apparently) is that a student living in France is faced with a geographic INABILITY to participate in-person in the group work, whereas a request to not participate based upon religious concerns is representative merely of a PREFERENCE not to participate in-person in the group work.

        • According to the article in University Affairs this got to the Office of the Dean because the instructor forwarded it to the Dean’s office.

          Apparently, the professor believed that no accommodation should be granted, but felt that that decision should be communicated to the student through the University’s administration. Unsatisfied by the “accommodate the student” response from the Dean’s office, the professor then raised the issue at a Departmental meeting with his colleagues, who then passed a motion (without dissent) stating: “Whereas it is recognized that [the University] recognizes diversity, be it resolved that academic accommodations for students will not be made if they contribute to material or symbolic marginalizations of other students, faculty or teaching assistants.” THEN, subsequent to that motion, the instructor told the student that his request would not be accommodated.

          At that point, the student basically said “OK, thanks anyway”. Here’s what I think is an important paragraph from the article I linked to:

          “In the end, the student said that he would respect the professor’s decision, and thanked him for how he had handled the request. “I cannot expect that everything will perfectly suit what I would consider an ideal situation,” he wrote. For the professor, this was a further indication that the request was handled properly and that accommodation wasn’t “a religious essential” but perhaps “a ‘nice to have’.”

          The University’s administration, however, still believes that an accommodation should have been granted, which is why we are where we are.

          Also of interest is the fact that the student has now already participated in the group assignment.

  9. The existence of so many sets of religious beliefs could be taken as proof of the irrationality of our species; alternatively, it could be taken as proof that our species demands explanations for the phenomena we observe, and in the absence of provable explanations will take faith-based ones. Either point of view allows for the existence of an infinite variety of beliefs, which may or may not be classified as religious. Calling an irrational belief a tenet of one’s religion gives it more societal clout (in current Canadian society) than calling it a neurosis. But I’m uncertain there’s a difference.

    • Your fedora is on too tight. Your comment is also just inflammatory and has nothing to do with this piece. The article is not talking about whether religious belief is real or not, it is talking about religious accommodation.

      Also, people believe in religious beliefs for reasons other than being ignorant and too lazy to do the science. Perhaps you should be less disdainfully parochial and read more. One of the pleasures my religion gives me is a long intellectual and philosophical history so I don’t turn into you. That’s worth a few dollars in the collection plate.

    • I’m more inclined to believe Paul Hellyers’ assertion that aliens are visting, than I am to believe anything pertaining to religion.
      Simple case of probabilities.

  10. One thing that occurred to me but I haven’t seen anyone else raise… when I was in school/university and in the brief time I spent teaching, I saw students try just about anything to get out of assignments. Given the student participated when the prof turned down his request, maybe this was just a case of a student trying a novel escape from work, and it’s all gone way further than his wildest imagination…

    • Even if the student was entirely sincere in his request, I still think that the fact that he made a polite request directly to his instructor, and then seemed entirely willing to accept the decision of the instructor once it was communicated to him could be getting some more coverage. I’d imagine that even amongst people who find the request to be an abomination there’d be a reasonable number of people who feel that the student’s actions were just fine in this case. He made a request, it was declined, and he moved on. At least, that seems to have been the case. That the issue has blown up as it has seems to me to be largely the result of the actions of others, not the student.

      • The request was offensive. People should speak out against this nonsense at every turn. I don’t care how polite he was.

      • It has blown up because the institution said the prof was wrong to say no, so the prof went public.

        • As I said, it blew up because of the actions of others (the Dean’s office), not the student.

          • Agreed.

  11. This student will graduate, obtain a job, and then demand a male-only workplace. The Human Rights Commission will find that yes, he does have that human right, and will punish the employer accordingly.

    • I think you’re being a bit too hard on the student.

      When the answer to his request came back “No”, the student’s response was to thank the professor for considering the request, acknowledge that his preferred ideal scenario can’t always be accommodated, and participate in the group project.

      I think it’s important not to lose site of the fact that the student accepted the decision and did the group work assigned. It was officials in the University administration who didn’t accept the instructor’s decision to not accommodate the student, not the student.

  12. Sorry if I offend believers, but as far as I’m concerned religion is but a pile of crocks. Women are half of the human race and I can’t find any reason to discard them one way or another based on whatever belief one feels compelled to come up with. Here’s what I say to the student who doesn’t want to mix with female students: tough luck, buddy. And here’s what I say to the dean: grow a backbone, sir.

    • You’re quite safe to offend “believers” in general, just don’t offend one particular religion (you know which one) if you want to live peacefully. At most universities, you usually have to make sure you don’t contradict any fashionable politically correct dogma but definitely don’t say anything about one particular religion.

  13. If this ass is a foreign student I can understand YorkUni’s point.
    They make killing on these kids ,and will do anything not to upset the golden goose
    I am disgusted by this whole thing .

    • I think you’re being a bit hard on the student. He politely asked for an accommodation, and when the answer was no he politely accepted the answer, acknowledged that his personal beliefs can’t always be accommodated by society, and did the group work as assigned. As far as I’m concerned, the student acted appropriately.

      • He’s likely not that interested in getting a degree, he’s
        serving as a plant to see what Islamists can get away with. Same idea as people dressed in Muslim garb acting strangely on airplanes to see if anyone will dare challenge them.

        • If that were true, why do you suppose he accepted the professor’s decision and did the group work as assigned?

  14. So in order to avoid the appearance of religious intolerance it’s acceptable to substitute gender intolerance. Great move. NOT.

  15. Can we get names of these anonymous religious scholars? What qualifies them to be a scholar? If you don’t even know the student’s religion with 100% certainty, how can you even know which scholar to go to with 100% certainty? Did anyone ask the student himself to give proof for his stance?

    Just because someone is a scholar doesn’t necessarily give him the ultimate authority over right and wrong; and it is possible for a adherent and scholar to disagree on the meaning/interpretation of a verse or passage from a holy book. Plus there is personal experience which falls outside of what is written (i.e. inspiration). Ultimately I think the university should’ve asked the student to provide proof or an explanation for his stance. There was a time when I might have made a similar request if I was in a similar situation; and I would have happily provided an explanation for my beliefs.

    • The student’s religion has not been publicly revealed for privacy reasons – but from a reading of this and other articles, I’m pretty sure the prof knew the student’s religious affiliation.

      As to what qualifies them as scholars… probably, degrees related to study in the faith in which they are scholars.

    • I think this misses the point and it is what angered me about the article.
      I am confident that one could find a religious “scholar” or other authority to say that this objection is completely valid and in keeping with a particular religion. The author of this article only mentions one such authority who claimed that it is not. However, I don’t think a secular university should have to get into the business of verifying the validity of a specific religious belief, as long as it is honestly held.
      The belief that god has mandated that women and men should not learn together in a university setting is as valid and supportable as the idea that Joseph Smith found gold plates in upstate New York, or that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead, or that Muhammed flew to heaven on a winged horse. The evidence to support these claims is the same in each instance.
      In my view, the professor was correct to reject the request. To challenge the validity of the belief would have been a pointless undertaking. At the end of the day, whether there is scriptual authority for the belief or not, the university is a secular co-ed institution where women have every right to pursue an education alongside their male counterparts. Therefore the validity of the belief is moot since it cannot, or rather should not, be accommodated.
      The author’s message is that the university should not have accommodated this particular belief, not because of the ridiculousness of it, or its violent collision with the concept of gender equality, but because, in her view, it was not as valid as other religious beliefs and tended to demean them. However, to ask the university to engage in this type of assessment is unfair.
      What the author does not seem to realize is that this student may be “making it up as he goes along,” but that is what all religions do.

  16. Simply York trying to save money on classrooms for courses.

  17. Science is antithetical to religion. University is the home of science.

    • Maybe it was once but political correctness is the master of the house these days and it did not take Islamists long to figure out how to exploit that to their advantage. By the way, most of Canada’s earliest universities were founded by religious groups and I don’t think that our country was doing too badly as a result. It’s one specific ideology within one specific religion that is the threat to our universities and everyone knows it even if they want to tiptoe around the issue.

  18. Emma Teitel makes a valid point but the larger issue is
    campus political correctness which is being harnessed by Islamists as yet
    another weapon to force their social model in the West. The Islamists have grasped that in a politically correct environment, what’s right and what’s true takes a backseat
    to not causing offense and they are the masters of portraying themselves and
    other Muslims as an aggrieved minority. So, in the land of political correctness, the Islamist rules or will rule very soon. As they build up their numbers through immigration, they will only get more aggressive in insisting ontheir rules to apply, just as they have done all over W. Europe, esp. in France.

  19. That is why the Quebec Charter IS necessary. It is NOT unreasonable the many members of the public who HAVE to interact with Government( Officials or personnel) can be served by IMPARTIAL Individuals WHO ARE NOT ADORNED BY THEIR PERSONAL RELIGIOUS PARAPHERNALIA.
    Old world hatreds should NOT be imported to Canada…people should NOT have to be subject to forced to cope with the religion of others..who do have every right to wear what they wish…IN THEIR PRIVATE TIME

    Forcing religious beliefs on others (as this student attempted )IS NOT ACCEPTABLE
    in ANY SITUATION . Canada respects l RELIGIONS (and races)..
    but not to force their viewpoints on others.
    In interacting with a R.C.M.P officer (no matter what nationality)…I have respect for the R.C.M.P. uniform…but NOT when i the uniform is “perverted” by a religious belief.THAT IS OFFENSIVE TO ME AND MY CANADIAN TRADITIONS

  20. Sounds like the student is close minded and shouldn’t graduate.

    After all, atheists, agnostics and non-believers don’t want to cloud their minds with religious myths and often backwards biases.

    Each religion will declare its history as fact to sell its own position. Just take any “man’s” religion on women, they all discriminate and are in practice, against women as equals. Prove god/alah or any deity 1) exists and 2) authorizes discrimination against women?

    If a student can’t grasp logic, rationality then they shouldn’t graduate.

    I submit, these courses be open to all, and closed to none, and if some religious idiot says otherwise, they just don’t graduate.

  21. Why do people insist on making big deals out of something that should
    have been dealt with on a one-to-one basis, at least smaller scale than
    being all over the news. I feel bad for the student now who probably
    feels attacked because of all this. Maybe he is over-religious to the
    point of exaggerating what his religion says but it’s no reason to get
    angry about it. Obviously he is from a different culture and as a result of that he holds different beliefs. Suggesting York shouldn’t have a religious policy because of
    one extreme example isn’t fair. Especially considering the fact that
    after he didn’t get granted this exemption he politely complied. He
    wasn’t demanding it, he was asking to see if it was possible. Now it’s
    being over-dramatized which only further promotes stereotypes people have about
    members of other cultures and religions. You can’t understand his point of view because you can’t imagine the way he sees the world and the ideas he holds about things. His request shouldn’t have been granted as it’s not what Canada is about, but it IS about acceptance and understanding… and this whole thing could have been explained to him a more warm, personal way than through the national news.

    • I don’t have to understand his point of view any more than I have to understand a white supremacist’s point of view. Canada is NOT about permitting the discrimination of women in the name of religious beliefs. I don’t know what Canada you live in, but it’s not mine.

    • It was explained to him by his prof, and he agreed. All that was needed was a firm “No”. The problem is that the administration would have said yes, and is saying the prof was wrong.

  22. Thank you for the comments……You profess to be an Atheist?

    I now know “we”(I am an Atheist) can be as narrow minded, sarcastic,and “Politically correct” as anyone else. …INTERESTING!…..Have a pleasant week.

  23. A lot of hubbub about nothing. When does a woman get insulted because a man says he is uncomfortable sitting beside the opposite sex in a classroom. A man they have never met. If I remember when he signed up for the class he was told it was all on internet and there would be no mandatory class activities. When he was told they had changed the setting he asked to be excused on religious grounds. In that case the University should have allowed his request or given his money back. This is not even a personal rights issue it is a contractual business issue to begin with. As far as checking to see if it is a valid religious request who has the time for that. Maybe it is not religious at all. Maybe he is disfigured or overly nervous in female company. Maybe in a room of today’s scantily dressed females he gets an uncontrollable hard -on which embarrasses him particularly if he is asked to stand up to answer a question, Leave the poor guy alone. Who cares if he wants to be alone and really who’s business is it anyway! Talk about manufactured issues. Most of the writers here are totally paranoid!

    • If it wasn’t for religious reasons, there would be no discussion of his “right to religious freedom”.

      Religions that prohibit contact with the unrelated members of the other gender do so because they believe it is wrong to expose oneself to sexual temptation and attraction. This results in gender segregated societies, and that always has worse effects on women than men.

      This should not be validated by any public institution.

  24. When the religious authorities confirm that such requests are not in keeping with the orthodox religion, it then becomes a matter of personal choice and when one person in a group wants to do something weird, everyone in the class doesn’t have to accommodate that person. If someone wants to sit on top of his desk instead of in the chair, that person would be asked to leave, don’t you think? If someone wanted to speak Spanish in an English speaking class at a university, the whole class doesn’t have to sit through a dual language lecture. When someone VIOLATES the precepts of a religion and claims that this is in keeping with his orthodox beliefs, he can’t impose on the rest of the university particularly if it means extra cost and time to teach that student separately. There is a limit to bending to accommodate fringe beliefs while we still respect minority beliefs and opinions.

  25. If they ASK him, he can likely explain why he is saying this. It may not hold water. Or it may be that he is incapable of avoiding the near occasion of sin when he is around groups of women which is why he chose internet option, instead. Likely has nothing to do with the women or civil rights. He may need help with this as once his degree is obtained, he’s bound to run into a woman on the job. Either way, seems to be mishandled by the school, so far.

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