Brandes on Education in Religious Communities

Tamar Hostovsky Brandes (Ono Academic College) has posted Between Vowels and Values: Education in Religious Communities. The abstract follows. –YAH

This paper examines the extent of autonomy religious minorities should enjoy in the area of education, specifically in determining the curriculum children belonging to religious minorities are required to study. While there is an abundance of scholarship on the topics of exemptions from educational requirements, this paper focuses on two issues that are relatively neglected. The first regards the different types of rights on the basis of which requests for exemptions are being made. This paper examines whether requests exemptions that are based on religious liberty are different than requests for exemptions based on culture, and argues that requests based on religious obligations are often more absolute that claims based on culture. As a result, mitigating measures short of exemptions, which may be able to resolve the issues that stand at the basis of the latter, do not resolve claims based on religious obligations.

The second issue this paper addresses is whether the state’s interest in promoting social solidarity justifies, at least in some circumstances, rejecting claims for such exemptions. In examining claims for exemptions in the field of education, liberal scholars usually concentrate on the interests the state has in ensuring that its citizens are self-sufficient and in instilling in them democratic values. The state’s interest in maintaining social solidarity is often overlooked. This paper argues that the state’s interest in maintaining social solidarity must be weighed separately from the state’s interests in self-sufficiency and democracy. It then suggests guidelines for assessing the effect a granting or rejecting a request for exemption may have on social solidarity. These guidelines include examining whether the exemption is requested by an individual or by a group, the scope of the exemption requested and the nature of educational material which the exemption covers.

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