Alidadi, “Religion, Equality and Employment in Europe”

In June, Hart Publishing will release “Religion, Equality and Employment in Europe: The Case for Reasonable Accommodation,” by Katayoun Alidadi (Bryant University).  The publisher’s description follows:

The management of religious and ideological diversity remains a key challenge of our time, deeply entangled with debates about the nature of liberal democracy, 9781509911387equality, social cohesion, minorities and nationalism, foreign policy and even terrorism. This book explores this challenge at the level of the workplace in Europe. People do not surrender their religion of belief at the gates of the workplace, nor should they be required to do so. But what are the limits of accommodating religious belief in the work place, particularly when it clashes with other fundamental rights and freedoms? Using a comparative and socio-legal approach that emphasises the practical role of human rights, anti-discrimination and employment protection, this book argues for an enforceable right to reasonable accommodation on the grounds of religion or belief in the workplaces in Europe. In so doing, it draws on the case law of Europe’s two supranational courts, three country studies–Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK–as well as developments in the US and Canada. By offering the first book-length treatment of the issue, it will be of significant interest to academics, policy-makers and students interested in a deeper understanding of European and Western inclusion, freedom and equality in a multicultural context.

“Muslim Students, Education and Neoliberalism” (Haywood & Mac an Ghaill, eds.)

This month, Palgrave Macmillan releases “Muslim Students, Education and Neoliberalism: Schooling a ‘Suspect Community,'” edited by Máirtín Mac an Ghaill (Newman University) and Chris Haywood (Newcastle University).  The publisher’s description follows:

This edited collection brings together international leading scholars to explore why the education of Muslim students is globally associated with radicalisation, Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 8.35.21 PMextremism and securitisation. The chapters address a wide range of topics, including neoliberal education policy and globalization; faith-based communities and Islamophobia; social mobility and inequality; securitisation and counter terrorism; and shifting youth representations. Educational sectors from a wide range of national settings are discussed, including the US, China, Turkey, Canada, Germany and the UK; this international focus enables comparative insights into emerging identities and subjectivities among young Muslim men and women across different educational institutions, and introduces the reader to the global diversity of a new generation of Muslim students who are creatively engaging with a rapidly changing twenty-first century education system.  The book will appeal to those with an interest in race/ethnicity, Islamophobia, faith and multiculturalism, identity, and broader questions of education and social and global change.

Rayside et al, “Religion and Canadian Party Politics”

In May, the University of British Columbia Press will release “Religion and Canadian Party Politics,” David Rayside (University of Toronto) and Jerald Sabin (Carleton University) and Paul Thomas (Carleton University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Religion is usually thought inconsequential to contemporary Canadian politics. This book takes a hard look at just how much influence faith continues to have in federal, 9780774835589provincial, and territorial arenas. Drawing on case studies from across the country, it explores three important axes of religiously based contention – Protestant vs. Catholic, conservative vs. reformer, and, more recently, minority religious practices. Although the extent of partisan engagement with each of these sources of conflict has varied across time and region, the authors show that religion still matters in shaping political oppositions. These themes are illuminated by comparisons to the role faith plays in the politics of other western industrialized societies.

Zubrzycki, “Beheading the Saint”

In December, the University of Chicago Press released “Beheading the Saint: Nationalism, Religion, and Secularism in Quebec,” by Geneviève Zubrzycki (University of Michigan). The publisher’s description follows:

Through much of its existence, Québec’s neighbors called it the “priest-ridden province.” Today, however, Québec society is staunchly secular, with a modern welfare 9780226391687state built on lay provision of social services—a transformation rooted in the “Quiet Revolution” of the 1960s.

In Beheading the Saint, Geneviève Zubrzycki studies that transformation through a close investigation of the annual Feast of St. John the Baptist of June 24. The celebrations of that national holiday, she shows, provided a venue for a public contesting of the dominant ethno-Catholic conception of French Canadian identity and, via the violent rejection of Catholic symbols, the articulation of a new, secular Québécois identity. From there, Zubrzycki extends her analysis to the present, looking at the role of Québécois identity in recent debates over immigration, the place of religious symbols in the public sphere, and the politics of cultural heritage—issues that also offer insight on similar debates elsewhere in the world.

Yoga and the University

Not into Yoga

Not into Yoga (Photo: Ottawa Magazine)

Earlier this month, controversy broke out when a Canadian university canceled a beginners’ yoga class it had offered for years. The reason for the class cancellation at the University of Ottawa is a bit murky, but a student government representative evidently told the instructor that the class showed insufficient sensitivity to foreign cultures. Yoga, after all, comes from India—a country, the concerned student explained, that had suffered oppression and “cultural genocide” as a result of “colonialism and Western supremacy.” The yoga class could be perceived as a slight to Canadians of Indian ancestry and to Indian civilization, and had best be shut down.

Many conservative commentators expressed disbelief. Here’s another example, they complained, of political correctness gone crazy. What could possibly be wrong with a yoga class? It’s just stretching. Moreover, there’s nothing unusual about appropriating positive aspects of other cultures. Aren’t we all supposed to be multiculturalists now? A yoga class is a tribute to Indian culture. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Etc.

We have seen a number of silly episodes on college campuses this fall, and I appreciate that people have grown exasperated. But even a broken clock is right twice a day. In this case, it seems to me, the students who object to the University of Ottawa’s yoga class have a point – though perhaps not the one they think.

The problem is not that a yoga class wrongly appropriates a foreign culture. As critics of the university’s decision rightly point out, there’s nothing necessarily offensive in that. And there’s no indication that the teacher or students in this particular class did anything to mock Indian culture. I imagine most of the students didn’t think about yoga’s cultural roots at all. Probably some of them assumed yoga was a Western invention. American tourists in Italy frequently tell Italians that we invented pizza.

The problem is that yoga, in its essence, is a religious exercise. (In America, in fact, some groups have objected to public school yoga classes as violations of the Establishment Clause). For pious Hindus, yoga is not simply mindful stretching, but a form of worship, as much so as Christian prayer. It’s understandable, then, that many Hindus find it deeply offensive to treat yoga merely as part of a good exercise regime. Indeed, an organization called the Hindu American Foundation has started a campaign, “Take Back Yoga,” which seeks to end the commercialization of yoga and restore the tradition “as a lifelong practice dedicated to achieving moksha, or liberation/union with God.” Think of it as akin to keeping Christ in Christmas.

Of course, the fact that Hindus see yoga as a spiritual practice doesn’t mean that others must do so as well. In a pluralistic society, believers must learn to tolerate many things. Perhaps a Hindu has no more right to object to secular yoga classes than a Christian has to object to SantaCon. (Word to the wise: avoid New York City bars on December 12). To each his own. Still, to my mind, there is something very admirable about fighting to preserve an ancient religious tradition from commercialization, misappropriation and dilution – something very conservative, in fact. Maybe the University of Ottawa should just offer a calisthenics class.

Canada’s Hobby Lobby Moment?

Supreme Court justicesIn a landmark decision on March 19, the Supreme Court of Canada decided Loyola High School v. Quebec.  At issue in the case was whether Loyola High School, a private Catholic school, should be required to teach Quebec’s “Ethics and Religious Culture” curriculum in a “neutral” manner.  Loyola sought an exemption from the neutrality requirement when teaching the Catholic faith and the ethics portion of the course.  Although the Supreme Court divided 4-3 with respect to the rationale, it unanimously held that Loyola should be granted an exemption.

As Barry Bussey explains below, this case is significant because the Court came very near to granting corporations religious freedom rights (read Bussey’s full article here).  The extent to which corporations enjoy religious freedom protections was, of course, a controversial issue decided last year by the American Supreme Court in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell.  In that case, the American Court held that RFRA grants religious exercise rights to certain for-profit corporations.  It seems that the Canadian Supreme Court may be following the American lead, albeit incrementally. Here is Bussey (footnotes omitted):

While all seven members of the Court were of the view that Loyola’s freedom of religion was infringed, the Court split in its reasoning 4-3 over the issues of religious corporate rights and the remedy in the case. Both opinions held that religious freedom is not only an individual right but also includes communal dimensions. This is significant. Justice Abella recognized that “individuals may sometimes require a legal entity in order to give effect to the constitutionally protected communal aspects of their religious beliefs and practice, such as the transmission of their faith.” But she did not think it was necessary to decide whether corporations enjoy religious freedom in their own right under s. 2(a) of the Charter to decide the case. Religious freedom, she maintained, must “account for the socially embedded nature of religious belief, and the deep linkages between this belief and its manifestation through communal institutions and traditions.”

Justices McLachlin and Moldaver were unequivocal in their acceptance of the Charter’s protection of the “communal character of religion”:

The individual and collective aspects of freedom of religion are indissolubly intertwined. The freedom of religion of individuals cannot flourish without freedom of religion for the organizations through which those individuals express their religious practices and through which they transmit their faith.

MacLachlin and Moldaver held that a corporation was entitled to religious freedom protection as long as it was constituted primarily for religious purposes and operated in accordance with those religious purposes.

Since a corporate organization does not demonstrate a sincere belief as an individual, it must show that its belief or practice is consistent with its purpose and its operation. Such beliefs and practises are more static and less fluid than those of an individual, which makes the inquiry into past practises and consistency of positions more relevant than it would be if the claimant were an individual. In this case, the beliefs and practises of Loyola were consistent and ought to be protected. The Minister’s refusal to accommodate those beliefs was in violation of the Charter right.

McLachlin and Moldaver’s decision forms a great foundation for a future case to clearly outline the boundaries of the religious freedom for religious corporate bodies. It is an incremental development in the right direction.

Bean, “The Politics of Evangelical Identity: Local Churches and Partisan Divides in the United States and Canada”

This August, Princeton University Press will publish The Politics of Evangelical Identity: Local Churches and Partisan Divides in the United States and Canada by Lydia Bean (Baylor University). The publisher’s description follows.bookjacket

It is now a common refrain among liberals that Christian Right pastors and television pundits have hijacked evangelical Christianity for partisan gain. The Politics of Evangelical Identity challenges this notion, arguing that the hijacking metaphor paints a fundamentally distorted picture of how evangelical churches have become politicized. The book reveals how the powerful coalition between evangelicals and the Republican Party is not merely a creation of political elites who have framed conservative issues in religious language, but is anchored in the lives of local congregations.

Drawing on her groundbreaking research at evangelical churches near the U.S. border with Canada–two in Buffalo, New York, and two in Hamilton, Ontario–Lydia Bean compares how American and Canadian evangelicals talk about politics in congregational settings. While Canadian evangelicals share the same theology and conservative moral attitudes as their American counterparts, their politics are quite different. On the U.S. side of the border, political conservatism is woven into the very fabric of everyday religious practice. Bean shows how subtle partisan cues emerge in small group interactions as members define how “we Christians” should relate to others in the broader civic arena, while liberals are cast in the role of adversaries. She explains how the most explicit partisan cues come not from clergy but rather from lay opinion leaders who help their less politically engaged peers to link evangelical identity to conservative politics.

The Politics of Evangelical Identity demonstrates how deep the ties remain between political conservatism and evangelical Christianity in America.

Radio Program on God and Government

Here is a radio program where I recently appeared as a guest called “Interfaith Voices.” The program is organizing a substantial series for the next several months on “God and Government” whose aim is to explore church-state relations in different countries.

This episode kicks the series off and considers the United States and Canada. There was a broad spectrum of views represented: the other guests are Professors Jacques Berlinerblau (Jewish Civilization, Georgetown) and Lori Beaman (Classics and Religious Studies, University of Ottawa). The editing process cut out some of the more interesting disagreements, but what remains gives a strong flavor of the discussion.

ICLARS Panel: Is Religion Special?

Along with my St. John’s colleague, Marc DeGirolami, and other law and religion scholars from around the world, I spent part of last week at the biannual ICLARS Conference, hosted this year at William and Mary and the University of Virginia. Kudos and thanks to the indefatigable Cole Durham and other conference organizers for an exceptionally helpful  and fun event!

I spoke at Friday’s afternoon session, on a panel, “Is Religion Special?”, moderated by Edward Gaffney of Valparaiso. My co-panelists were Barry Bussey of the Canadian Council of Christian Charities and Micah Schwartzman of the University of Virginia. Bussey presented a paper titled, “Does Religion Merit Special Protection in the Law? (Within the Canadian Legal Context).” Early Canadian Supreme Court cases stressed the country’s Christian heritage, he explained. Over time, however, the Court moved to a concern with religion in general. Now, equality often trumps freedom of religion in the Canadian case law–religious freedom is often the “loser.” I presented my working project on the rise of the Nones–the group of people who claim no religious affiliation–and what it might mean for the definition of religion in American law. As an example, I used the recent “Psychic Sophie” case, in which the Fourth Circuit held that “following one’s inner flow” does not qualify as a religion meriting constitutional and statutory protection. Schwartzman closed the panel with his draft, “Religion as a Legal Proxy.” He addressed the argument that, even if religion as such doesn’t merit special legal protection, religion is a proxy for other comprehensive values that do. Schwartzman is skeptical of this argument. For one thing, he said, interests besides religion–conscience, for example–might also serve as effective proxies for other comprehensive values, without raising religion’s particular concerns.

Young, “Religion, Sex, and Politics”

PrintNext month Fernwood Publishing will publish Religion, Sex, and Politics: Christian Churches and Same-Sex Marriage in Canada by Pamela Dickey Young (Queen’s University). The publisher’s description follows.

Same-sex marriage continues to be a heated issue in Canadian politics. Why does this issue persist in the headlines and remain so controversial? What place does religion have in legislative and legal decisions? Religion, Sex and Politics analyzes the same-sex marriage debate in Canada by examining the intersections between religion, sexuality and public policy. Furthermore, the various arguments made by religious groups, both for and against same-sex marriage, are discussed, illustrating the range of perspectives on sexuality espoused by Christian groups and the numerous ways in which they influence the outcomes of legislation and court decisions.

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