Which of these things is not like the others?

  1. Being forbidden to wear a cross at work
  2. Being required to perform a public service without discriminating against gay people

Okay, it’s only a list of two.  But apparently the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission thinks they’re alike in at least one important way: the people who fought against them should be supported in taking a legal case to the European Court of Human Rights.

I’m uneasy about this. I understand that part of the EHRC’s role is to support strategic legal cases in order to clarify the law, and I think the European Court of Human Rights is quite bad at protecting the religious freedoms of individuals (particularly the religious freedoms of women). Mrs Eweida was forbidden by British Airways from wearing a cross with her uniform, and she lost her case even though BA subsequently changed their policy to permit at least some religious symbols. That policy change alone suggests the reasons for banning cross-wearing weren’t really weighty enough to justify interference with religious freedom. (I don’t know what to say about the Chaplin case – I’ve no idea if there’s a genuine health and safety risk involved in a nurse wearing a necklace.)

But in McFarlane and Ladele, there’s another really important right at stake in a way it just isn’t in Eweida: McFarlane and Ladele both chose to do jobs which were about serving people in contexts to do with important and very personal areas of private life, respectively relationship counselling and acting as a Registrar of births, marriages and deaths. It seems to me absolutely correct that they should be required to deliver those services in line with the non-discrimination policies of the organisations for which they worked.  I  just don’t think the EHRC should be supporting them – especially when there are Christian legal organisations only too happy to step in (or, indeed, who may have prompted the cases in the first place).

An african american women’s experience in an engineering class

I was going through one of those routine insurance checks when, on hearing I am in both philosophy and engineering, the woman taking my data told me about her daughter’s experience at another Texas university.

Her daughter has wanted to be an engineer since she was a little girl. A college education for her has meant a combination of scholarships and loans. In order to save money, she decided to go to a community college near home for two years and then transfer. So in her first class at a university, her professor asked about her background. When told he said, ‘Houston Community College can’t teach you anything. You don’t belong here, and I’m going to get you out of this class in ten days.’

Of course, the science community has supposedly woken up to the fact that the country can’t afford to trash the talents of women and African Americans, but it seems the word is slow to spread.

The young woman survived the class, despite his ignoring her and the other woman in the class, solely addressing the male students, etc.

So I asked her to find out his name, said I’d write to the prof’s chair and the dean, but, as my partner pointed out, that’s not going to change much. Still, maybe we have to settle for just very tiny moves forward.

What do you think?

Also, the university is not mine; it’s the one up in the Texas panhandle.

Uncertain Iranian lives: Sakineh, lawyers, and human rights activists

The life of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani remains in the balance

“A year after public attention was cast upon Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s plight, her life appears to remain in the balance.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old woman from Iran’s Azerbaijani minority, was sentenced in 2006 to be stoned to death for “adultery while married”.  She was also sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for her role in her husband’s murder which,  according to her lawyer, was reduced to five years’ imprisonment for complicity in the murder. She remains in prison in Tabriz.  In a letter sent by the Iranian Embassy in Spain to Amnesty International Spain on 8 July 2011, the Iranian authorities reiterated that she was sentenced to death by stoning and to 10 years’ imprisonment for murder…”

for more, click here

also, Fears grow for lawyer of woman in Iran stoning case

Lawyer still in prison after speaking to foreign media about case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani

for more, click here

Interested readers might also wish to check out:

What do Iran and the U.S. have in common?


Urgent petition to save Sakineh