Tuesday, May 15, 2007

British School Bars Christian from Wearing Chastity Ring but Allows Muslim Headscarves

On the heels of the British Airways banning one of its employees from wearing a small cross necklace while allowing Muslim employees to wear headscarves, a British girls' high school has banned a minister's daughter from wearing a silver chastity ring inscribed with a Bible verse. The same school allows Muslim and Sikh students to wear religious adornments such as headscarves and kara bracelets.

16 year old Lydia Playfoot is now challenging the school's ban in court on the basis of religious discrimination. According to her mother, Heather, "We have only ever asked of the school that there is a level playing field for children from all faiths and to treat Christians with respect."

Under the student uniform guidelines issued by the British Department for Education and Skills, schools "should act reasonably in accommodating religious requirements," under human rights legislation unless there is a health or safety reason for the restriction.

I fail to see how allowing Lydia to wear her chastity ring during normal classes poses a health or safety risk to anyone. I could certainly understand a shop class banning jewelery out of a concern that they could get caught in the machine tools. The complete ban, however, does strike me as an infringement upon Lydia's right to practice her faith. The fact that the school permits students of other faiths to wear much more visible (and therefore potentially disruptive) religious adornments is unfair and religious discrimination.

I hope that Lydia's legal challenge to her school's discriminatory ban is successful. Students should be free to wear religious jewelery such as a chastity ring, cross, Star of David, or patron Saint medal, and religious clothing such as a headscarf, yarmulke, or turban so long as it does not pose a health or safety risk to anyone.

No comments: