Quebec is well on its way, not only toward a significant burqa ban, but just as importantly toward an effort to discriminate between “serious” and non-serious religious accommodation requests. The intellectual laziness and social irresponsibility of beliefs like Katha Pollitt’s – “[R]eligion is what people make of it.” – make the world safe for crushing restrictions against girls and women in otherwise advanced countries.

You don’t get to say that your religion mandates that your eleven year old daughter have her clitoris cut off and her vagina sewn up and her head and body covered in veils. You don’t get to say that your religion mandates your wife can’t leave the house – ever – or if she is allowed out, it’s only under guard and under total veiling. You don’t get to say that “due to my firm religious beliefs … it will not be possible for me to meet in public with a group of women.” It’s perfectly okay for you to run your own cult in which you ban yourself from contact with the female race, but you don’t get to call this a religion, and you don’t get accommodations based on it.

You’re free to sue your daughter’s school because it won’t let you be on its grounds fully veiled. You will lose the suit, and it will cost you a lot of money and the court system a lot of time to get to that foreseeable outcome, but you’re free to do it.

But no state, and no institution within a state, is compelled to accommodate every demand made upon it simply because someone somewhere presents some behavior or other as religious.

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4 Responses to “‘Beyond the face-covering ban, the bill also sets out broad limits for all requests for religious accommodation. It states a request has to be “serious,” respect the right to equality between men and women and “the right of every person to be treated without discrimination.”‘”

  1. Elizabeth Rodriguiz Says:

    Thank you for drawing these lines. I’ve been watching all of this unfold, and I think we may be at the beginning of an era when people actually draw reasonable lines and make reasonable accommodations. The politics of polarization and holding to absolutes gets a society only so far before we all descend into madness. We need to leave our battlements and meet on the field between where we can admire the flowers and agree that when the field is sown with crops instead of blood we can all eat.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Elizabeth: Thanks for the comment. I think the core problem isn’t so much Pollit’s mindless relativism as a deeply rooted well-meaningness. Decent people want to act decently, want to be tolerant, want to understand and respect difference. The alternative looks like bigotry, small-mindedness, meanness. So yes – I think the point is to do what Quebec is going to try to do, even though it’s really difficult. Start drawing lines.

    One of my favorite examples of our hopeless inability to draw lines is here – one woman’s response to the grotesque breast-feeding fatwa. This woman refuses to reason, refuses to think, refuses to judge; and she makes herself ridiculous.

  3. Elizabeth Rodriguiz Says:

    This is where I start mindlessly reciting Ralph Waldo Emerson (sing it with me): “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.” Good flipping gravy.

  4. University Diaries » ‘Even though the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of religion, this does not give carte blanche to people to do anything they want by claiming that it is religious practice.’ Says:

    […] argument UD‘s been making since Blog Day One: Despite Katha Pollitt’s lazy claim that “religion is what people make of it,” religion actually isn’t anything people claim it is. All sorts of acts, ranging from socially […]

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