Worship on your own time

A new 'Equality Bill' may force universities to schedule classes around religions. | Photo: Junko S

The new ‘Equality Bill’, which is currently under debate in Parliament, could broaden special privileges for religions at the expense of true equality.

In a recent piece in the Guardian, Jessica Shepherd writes about how the new bill could help students whose religious observance interferes with their university commitments.

She mentions the example of a student who wanted time off to worship Imbolc, a Wiccan goddess.

But this is clearly absurd. Universities are meant to be devoted to serious academic study, institutions of intelligence and rationality. Asking them to bow down to such nonsensical practices is ridiculous.

Some of them already have. In a report by the Equality Challenge Unit, a lobby group, lists several universities who have committed to scheduling around religious holidays and festivals.

This just imposes an arbitrary restraint on other students, who find their regular timetables disrupted and have to fit their studies around the holy days of belief systems they have no connection to.

On a purely practical level it is utterly stupid. Universities have to set timetables for thousands of students, and plan around staff and room availability.

Many students have suffered from scheduling problems at the start of each semester, with the kinks not yet ironed out. Such concerns pose enough difficulty, without having to watch out for the festival of the Invisible Pink Unicorn, or other such things.

Though this is bad, it is even worse on a more theoretical level. Surely the way to ensure equality of religious and non-religious groups is not to grant them special privileges, like this.

In a recent column for The Linc, Shane Croucher argued that atheists and other non-religious folk should campaign vigourously for representation in Parliament. He said he was “not suggesting that faiths shouldn’t be represented,” and mentioned the 26 bishops that sit in the House of Lords.

However, this is exactly what should be done. There is no reason why religion should be the source of privilege. We should strip away existing ones, and not grant new ones for this reason.

Goddess worship should be done on your own time.

2 Responses to Worship on your own time

  1. David Clare says:

    Good point, are atheists not represented? Our government is far more secular than others i.e. U.S.A. and their obsession with God. We are just too politically correct.

  2. An anti-discrimination minister in Australia was once quoted as saying ‘Equality does not mean treating people the same.’ That is the crux of the issue, giving special preferences to certain groups in the name of equality leads only to rooting and over-representation of minority groups.

    I think of issues like this in the mindset of natural selection. If your religion prevents you from studying, then you have a choice. No-one in the western world is truly forced to believe in anything (except the threat of terrorism!)