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Between vowels and values: Education in religious communities

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The present paper examines the issue of the extent of autonomy that religious minorities enjoy in the area of education, specifically in determining the curriculum that children belonging to religious minorities are required to study. Although there is an abundance of scholarship on the topic of exemptions from educational requirements, I am particularly interested in exploring two issues that are relatively neglected. The first regards the different types of rights based on which requests for exemptions are being made, specifically whether requests for exemptions based on religious liberty are different from those based on culture. I argue that requests based on religious obligations often take a more categorical form than claims based on the cultural aspects of religion. As a result, mitigating measures that fall short of exemptions, and which may be able to resolve claims based on culture, cannot resolve claims based on religious obligations. The second is whether the interest of the state in promoting social solidarity justifies, at least in some circumstances, rejecting claims for such exemptions. In examining claims for exemptions in the field of education, liberal scholars usually focus on the interest of the state in ensuring that citizens are self-sufficient and in instilling democratic values in them. The interest of the state in maintaining social solidarity is often overlooked. I argue that the interest of the state in maintaining social solidarity must be weighed separately from its interests in self-sufficiency and democracy. I suggest guidelines for assessing the effect that granting or rejecting a particular request for exemption may have on social solidarity. These guidelines include examining whether the exemption is requested by an individual or by a group, the scope of the exemption, and the nature of the educational material that the exemption covers.

Affiliations: 1: Faculty Member, Ono Academic College, School of Law


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