Friday, February 24, 2006

Christian Grad Student Fails to Prove Discrimination

The latest issue of the CAUT Bulletin (organ of the Canadian Association of University Teachers) reports that the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal has dismissed a complaint by a Christian graduate student that she was discriminated against because of her religion.

I don't approve of Canada's human rights tribunals, because they have in the past acted in ways contrary to free speech. But it is a relief to see they decided rightly in this case.

Cynthia Maughan, a Master's student in English, had complained that one of her graduate seminar classes was held on Sunday, making it unable for her to attend. However, she admitted she didn't regularly attend church, and that she sometimes did school work on Sundays. Her instructor, Lorraine Weir, apparently offered her a work-around on the class, but didn't change the date of the seminar. Maughan also complained about an e-mail message in which a student "fondly re-[called] the stoning of Christians", and that her case was unfairly discussed at a 2004 conference at UBC and in a faculty association newsletter.

Judy Parrack, a member of the Human Rights Tribunal, dismissed the complaint in its entirety. About the last complaint, she wrote "Ms. Maughan seems to suggest that if an individual responds to, or speaks of, an allegation of discrimination, that response serves to further the discriminatory conduct and thus constitutes a continuing contravention of the Code. With respect I disagree. If Ms. Maughan were correct, it would mean that no respondent could defend or speak about allegations made against him or her in a public document. Ms. Maughan filed an action with the Court, an action that is a matter of public record, and should have expected that some consequence would result."

From what I can see, Maughan took a simple dispute that could have easily been resolved and turned it into a huge and unnecessary battle for Christianity. With Christians an overwhelming majority in Canadian society, I really don't understand the proclivity of some Christians to view every incident through the lens of martyrdom. Universities accommodate Christians to an extent not provided to any other religion---Jews, for example, don't get Yom Kippur off as an official university holiday. And the remark about "stoning Christians" was offered in response to a remark by far-right politician Stockwell Day, and was clearly not intended to insult Christians in general.

Maughan is still pursuing an independent $18 million civil lawsuit against UBC, Lorraine Weir, and three other professors. $18 million represents about 2% of UBC's annual budget, as noted here.

Maughan's case became something of a cause celebre for conservative Canadian Christians. Now that the Human Rights Tribunal has dismissed her complaints, I can only hope that the civil suit gets similar treatment.

4 comments:

lt.kizhe said...

With Christians an overwhelming majority in Canadian society, I really don't understand the proclivity of some Christians to view every incident through the lens of martyrdom.

Yeah, but those other folks aren't real Christians -- they're wishy-washy pew-warmers only one small step from agnosticism. So they don't count: we True Christians really are a persecuted minority. (Trust me on this -- 30 years ago, I was a fundamentalist).

And $18M? For 6 lousy marks? For being expected to go to the house of someone she didn't like, and disobeying a presumed religious injunction that she admits she doesn't hold to anyway? What a freaking whiner.

ADR said...

Just FYI, York U in Toronto does require everyone to take off the Jewish high holidays (Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, and possibly a few others). York is right at the edge of North York and York Region, which tend to have higher-than-average (in the GTA) Jewish populations, so it does make some sense -- most students wouldn't be there anyway.

Scott said...

However, she admitted she didn't regularly attend church, and that she sometimes did school work on Sundays.

"Professor, I can't take the exam tomorrow. My family's having a big brunch for Yom Kippur..."

Jeffrey said...

York gets Yom Kippur off? Not according to this calendar of events at York, which states specifically that the university remains open for Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashana, and Passover, but is closed for Good Friday. (It does look like no classes or exams are held on Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashana, and parts of the Passover holiday, though.)