Religious Accommodation and its Limits: The Recent Controversy at York University

  • Richard Moon


A recent request for religious accommodation
at York University has generated controversy
not just about the merits of the particular claim
but also about the general practice of religious
accommodation under human rights codes and
the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I
will argue that the York case highlights the diffi
culty in treating religion as a ground of discrimination
and more generally in fi tting religion
into an equality rights framework. Th is
diffi culty stems from the complex character of
religious adherence, which can be viewed as both
a personal commitment to a set of claims about
truth and right and as a cultural identity that is
expressed in shared spiritual practices. When
religion is viewed as a cultural identity, it seems
right that it be accommodated, unless this would
cause “undue hardship” to others. Yet when it is
viewed as a set of beliefs about right and truth,
particularly when those beliefs are inconsistent
with public values, it is not clear why it ought to
be accommodated.