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Sunday, 3 August 2008

Secularism – a cast-iron case

Is there a cast-iron case for a secular society? Nick Cohen thinks so, writing in today's (UK) Observer.

He looks at how anti-discrimination laws aim to, well, to prevent discrimination based on, inter alia, sexuality. But then he makes the point that religion seems to want to go beyond that, and it's a cogent argument. Go read. Among the cases he cites is the one of the Sikh school pupil in Aberdare, South Wales, whom we've featured a few times (see "Baubles, bangles and bias" from Friday's Pink Triangle posts).

Cohen doesn't like the Aberdare judgment any more than we did:

Last week, Mr Justice Silber ruled that Aberdare Girls' School in South Wales had been guilty of racial discrimination when it excluded Sarika Watkins-Singh for insisting on wearing a religious bracelet. It was a trivial case, which made you wonder about the dogmatism of both sides and the quality of their lawyers. The school could have given way – the bracelet was little more than a slim band. Watkins-Singh's parents could have accepted that they had a duty to uphold the authority of the teachers. Still, for all the pettiness, Mr Justice Silber's judgment was remarkable for his inability to recognise that a just society should treat people equally. He didn't rule that all the girls at Aberdare had the right to wear bracelets, just Watkins-Singh, because she was its only Sikh pupil.

He says that so imbued with discriminatory thinking have politicians and judges become that "they are shocked when citizens ask for equality before the law".

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