The hell with sincerity

From the Globe and Mail story on York University and the tension between human rights and religious accommodation –

“Each request for accommodation based on religious beliefs is considered based on the facts in accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Code,” Rhonda Lenton, York’s provost, said in an e-mail. But she also said the case is “complicated” by the fact that alternate arrangements were made for the other student to complete the work.

“Students often select online courses to help them navigate all types of personal circumstances that make it difficult for them to attend classes on campus, and all students in the class would normally have access to whatever alternative grading scheme had been put in place,” she said.

In a series of confidential letters, Dr. Singer also argued that granting the request “does not, in my opinion, qualify as a ‘substantial impact’ on any other student’s rights.”

To grant a religious accommodation, the university must decide the beliefs are sincere, and that it will not interfere with other students’ experience or harm the course’s academic integrity.

If that’s accurate, it’s truly sinister. The stipulation that to be granted a religious accommodation must not interfere with other students’ experience is the wrong kind of stipulation: it’s too shallow and too literal. Equality is not just a matter of in the moment “experience”; it’s a lot more than that. It doesn’t necessarily “interfere” with anyone’s experience if a particular set of people is denied entry, or indeed if those people are enslaved or killed. It’s very easy to ignore the unequal treatment meted out to people who aren’t oneself. My “experience” isn’t the criterion for whether or not you should be treated as inferior or alien or impure (and vice versa).

And sincerity isn’t the right criterion either. People tend to be all too “sincere” in their hatred of designated outgroups, and that’s exactly why they treat them like shit.



  1. johnthedrunkard says

    And who, exactly, is to be the arbiter of ‘sincerity?’

    One of the most sinister quirks of Wahhabism is the provision that ‘good’ Muslims (e.g. Wahhabis) are allowed to judge the ‘sincerity’ of others. In practice, that means a Wahhabi is permitted to judge, sentence, and execute another Muslim if he happens to FEEL that the other doesn’t meet HIS standards of ‘sincerity.’

    The slippery slope is well marked.

  2. says

    And who, exactly, is to be the arbiter of ‘sincerity?’

    That’s objectively determined by how loud you scream, and how much you intimidate everyone else into silence.

  3. Shatterface says

    Sociology is the study of society.

    If you can’t engage with half of society because ew, icky! you’ve failed.

  4. freemage says

    Worth noting that, per the article, the professor won out (though there’s still debate about the policy) in this case–the student accepted the department’s ruling, met with the fellow students per the requirement, and even declared that he was pleased with how it had been handled–and this, after being given the opportunity to drop the course for a full refund.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *