Examining religion and public life
Join Nate Walker for his paper presentation, "Bans on Religious Garb in Public Schools" as part of the 7th annual conference: “Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education” Friday 28 June 2013, Institute of Education, University of London
In 2010, the Council of Europe published recommendations for member states of the European Union to promote democratic citizenship and human rights education. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, religious freedom is a fundamental human right, and, as argued in this paper, is a central principle for democracies to effectively govern pluralism.
By banning students and teachers from wearing religious garments or insignia, generations of citizens may develop implicit and explicit biases that perpetuate invidious forms of discrimination. Put simply, they are taught to fear difference rather than learn how to understand difference, unaware that understanding need not imply endorsement. Unexamined religious biases can stem from a failure of formal educational systems to promote and affirm religious freedom as a fundamental human right.
Students exposed to peers and instructors from different ethnic backgrounds, including religious ones, are better prepared to participate in a pluralist democracy. Exposure to cultural and religious garb, in and out of the classroom, becomes one of the many ways governments can use human rights education to cultivate a responsible and engaged citizenry.