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Friday, December 12, 2003

Huzzah for secularism!


France is following Germany in trying to ban Muslim headscarves, Jewish kippahs, large crosses, and other such non-"discreet" religious wear. Apparently, it's now offensive to know that your classmate is religious. What will they ban next -- people named Mary and Jesus, Goldberg and Levy, Fatima and Muhammad?

Of course, there are circumstances when wearing religiously-prescribed clothing will make it impossible to participate in various activities. In those cases, I think the choice should be left up to the individual which of the two to choose; I do not think that religious freedom should be used as an excuse to force permission to participate in said activity.

One well-known example is the driver license photo question: if the woman believes she must wear facial covering, that is her right, but when it conflicts with being allowed to drive, she has to choose either to drive, with a license photo showing her face, or keep her face covered and not drive.

Another example is athletic activity. I take my argument in this area from a skirt-wearing Orthodox Jewish girl I know here. She is very athletic; when she goes for walks, and sometimes when she jogs, she wears a skirt; when she wants to do something more involved, she wears shorts. She discussed grade school sports with me, saying, if students show that they can participate in school-day P.E. activities just as well as other students without removing their special clothing, that's fine, and they should be allowed to continue. If their items cause problems, then they should either change their clothing, change their sport, or, if those are not possible, change their school. For elective sports activity (school teams), unobtrusive additions to the uniform should be permitted, but only so long as they do not cause a disturbance. If your yarmulke or headscarf falls off and you have to go chasing after it, well, don't wear it; if it stays on, that's fine (same for scrunchies and other hair-things). If your pectoral cross comes out from under your uniform top and catches on the volleyball net or whacks a teammate, take it off; if it stays put, that's fine. If you can't wear a uniform (it doesn't allow a full-length skirt, it's a bright color, etc.), don't play the sport. Non-elective sports (P.E. requirements) should allow clothing which does not hamper the student's performance, however.

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