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REPORTS

Joint Report of the Council and the General Board on a religion and belief equality policy

The COUNCIL and the GENERAL BOARD beg leave to report to the University as follows:

Introduction

1. The University's Equal Opportunities Policy was approved by Grace 3 of 22 May 2002, and the University's policy statements on race, disability, and gender equality were approved by Graces 2 of 23 July 2003, 5 of 7 November 2007, and 2 of 14 November 2007, respectively.

2. The policy statement on religion and belief equality which is set out in paragraphs 3-5 below will further develop and clarify aspects of the University's general Equal Opportunities Policy (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 151) (http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/offices/hr/policy/equal.html), spelling out the University's commitment to fulfilling its duties under the Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations 2003, the Equality Act 2006, and the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 to promote religion and belief equality.

Policy statement

3. The University's core values are freedom of thought and expression and freedom from discrimination. It therefore respects religious or philosophical beliefs of all kinds, including the lack of religion or belief. It also respects the right of all members of its community to discuss and debate freely issues of religion, belief, and philosophy. So far as is practicable the University will attempt to accommodate requests for adjustments to accommodate religious observance.1

4. The Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations 2003 prohibit discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief in employment and in vocational education. The Regulations define religion and belief as including any religion, religious belief or similar philosophical belief; the Equality Act 2006 extends the definition to make it clear that a reference to religion includes lack of religion or belief. The Equality Act also extends the prohibition of discrimination to the provision of goods and services, and therefore to accommodation, catering, etc. provided to students or the general public. The Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 makes it unlawful to stir up hatred on racial or religious grounds. However, the law does not prohibit discussion or criticism of religion.

5. Discrimination can be direct (i.e. treating someone less favourably because of her or his religion or belief or non-belief) or indirect (i.e. applying a provision, criterion or practice which would put a person of a particular faith at a disadvantage compared to others and which is not a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim). Discrimination also includes harassment of somebody on account of their religion or belief or victimization for having taken action to combat discrimination.

Recommendations

6. The Council and the General Board recommend

I. That approval be given for the policy statement on religion and belief equality set out in paragraphs 3-5 above.

16 March 2009 ALISON RICHARD, Vice-Chancellor WILLIAM BROWN MAVIS MCDONALD
 DAVID ABULAFIA S. J. COWLEY F. MORRISSEY
 ANTHONY BAGSHAW M. J. DAUNTON RACHAEL PADMAN
 NICK BAMPOS A. M. DONALD DAVID SIMON
 R. J. BARNES CHRISTOPHER HUM JOAN M. WHITEHEAD
 NIGEL BROWN VANESSA LAWRENCE S. J. YOUNG


Note of dissent

The University has no duty under this legislation to 'promote religion and belief equality', merely a duty not to discriminate when hiring staff or admitting students - which we stopped doing in 1877. The unfortunate wording of this policy might be interpreted to suggest that Cambridge is to promote the equality of evolution with creationism, or of cosmology with shepherds' tales. We must never accept any duty to promote the equality of truth and falsehood.

ROSS ANDERSON

16 March 2009


9 March 2009 ALISON RICHARD, Vice-Chancellor TOM BLUNDELL RACHAEL PADMAN
 ANTHONY BAGSHAW W. BORTRICK J. RALLISON
 NICK BAMPOS WILLIAM BROWN JEREMY SANDERS
 GRAEME BARKER PHILIP FORD I. H. WHITE
 JOHN BELL SIMON FRANKLIN  

1 In order to ensure non-discriminatory and lawful practice as an employer and a service provider, and to avoid the risk of vicarious liability should such discrimination take place within the organization, the Human Resources Committee, advised by the Human Resources Division, is assessing its information and operational systems, organizational culture, and capacity to identify and respond to staff and student faith or worship needs.


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Cambridge University Reporter 18 March 2009
Copyright © 2009 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.