Religious Accommodation Gone Wild

by | September 17, 2015


You would think professors would go out of their way to help out students in their classes.

Steve Kent, Member of the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly for Mount Pearl North, reacted to the CBC Newfoundland & Labrador news story, “MUN Prof Refuses to Wear Device for Hearing Disabled Student, Cites Religious Reasons” by saying,

This story is outrageous. Everyone deserves the right to learn. Thanks for speaking out, William Sears!

Now that William Sears (the student involved) has spoken out and “he and his father can get something done to prevent something similar from happening to someone else down the road,” what is the provincial government that funds Memorial University going to do to help Sears?

The chatter on r/atheism is full of questions about Professor Ranee Panjabi.  According to an updated CBC article,

Panjabi . . . told CBC News in 1996 that her Hindu beliefs prevented her from wearing an assistive device that a student with a hearing impairment had asked her to use.


Panjabi was reprimanded in 1985 for a similar complaint.

Panjabi has refused fulfill the requirements of her position three times: in 2015, 1996 and 1985. It’s time to tell Panjabi, “three strikes and you’re out!” because, as Sears points out

“When she said she would not wear the FM system, it was effectively saying to me that ‘I will not teach you’ — because I need that FM system in order to hear the instructor.”

Enough already with religious accommodation. MUN’s motto is Provehito in Altum (“Launch forth into the deep“). It’s time to tell Professor Panjabi to go jump in the Atlantic Ocean.

10 thoughts on “Religious Accommodation Gone Wild

  1. Diana MacPherson

    Veronica – you’re just too fast! I was thinking about writing about this one today too but glad you did!

    Let’s stop giving special privileges to religion! This professor feels she can get away with this behaviour because she claims it’s because of her religion? So what?! I don’t care if the reason is a religious one, a bad idea is a bad idea!

  2. bruce van dieten

    How is it possible a religion originating in the bronze age could have a prohibition on this tech? “Thou shalt not use FM technology, for it is an abomination before the Lord.” Now,if it was AM I could understand…. How is it possible that something so benign and beneficial, that doesn’t create the kind of sexual pleasure religoids hate,(or am I missing something) could possibly draw such a response? Is this satire? She’s killing me….

    1. billybob

      A case of I don’t want to do it so it becomes a religious prohibition? Religious prohibition of convenience?

  3. Heather Hastie

    I’ve heard about this several places, and I still don’t get it. I assumed at first the lecturer was First Presbyterian, but knew that was unlikely for a woman – “their” women are lucky to be able to speak at all let alone lecture. Now I learn she’s Hindu. What could possibly be the problem?

  4. Joe

    “She said she had some sort of agreement with the Blundon Centre or with the university saying she wouldn’t have to wear an FM system because of religious reasons,” he said.
    “I told her that was unacceptable to me, and as I gathered up my things and started to leave the classroom, Dr. Panjabi asked for my name so that she could strike it from the attendance list.”

    That is not reasonable accommodation, it’s a victims Olympics pissing contest.

    Reasonable accommodation is not “my way or the highway” intolerance. Sometimes you don’t get the specific accommodation you ask for. It’s about finding out what the needs and limitations of those involved are, and then finding something that works for everyone.

    The reasonable thing for Student to do is not run home and drop the class.
    The reasonable thing for the Prof to do is offer an alternative.

    People being emotional, intolerant and self centred is typical though in academia.

    1. Veronica Abbass Post author

      What’s this, the gospel of St. Joe.

      Let me fix your last sentence for you:

      Religious people being emotional, intolerant and self-centered is typical behaviour everywhere.

  5. Joe

    Cochrane dug around and found another woman who’d had the same problem with the same professor many years earlier. Back then, religion had nothing to do with it.
    “She was told that the professor didn’t want to wear it because she didn’t want to be recorded,” says Cochrane.

  6. Rob

    A central aspect to this story is how badly it is being reported, imo. Despite 2 prior skirmishes with Ed.Tec. few facts are being presented in support of or against the teacher’s position. I don’t believe there aren’t more facts available. The most detailed description of her reasoning thus far is “religious”. We deserve better info! For instance, some Hindu scholars to speak up on whether she is adhering to any recognizable or known system of belief. B/c I happen to doubt that.

    A similar problem of bad reporting is happening with 14yo clock-breaker Ahmed Mohamed in Texas.

    He did not actually “build” anything; to the contrary he disassembled a store-bought alarm clock and put the parts, still connected with original wires and ribbon connectors, into an attaché case without doing ANYTHING technical. I guarantee that anyone who can read this could have done it too and that’s no exaggeration.

    The second way we’re being shortchanged by the media is that we now know he has misrepresented himself, and this SHOULD call into question his motives for taking the thing to show his teacher – knowing full well that he had achieved nothing of any note and that the teacher, who apparently taught an engineering class, would immediately be able to see this for him or herself.

    On one hand, to a technically-savvy person (myself for instance), the device can’t be a bomb because none of the components have the necessary size or necessary shape of an explosive charge. On the other hand, few people are tech-savvy and so should be excused for being “excessively precautionary” if they happen to be responsible for hundreds of other people’s children at the same time. That principle would have known s/he was facing hundreds of multi-million dollar lawsuits if s/he didn’t “get it right” in just the right way – the needs of the many must outweigh the needs of the few, and the law moves in mysterious ways.

    And then again: shouldn’t Police Officers at least be able to discern the difference between a bomb and clock parts? I’d say so; they’re trusted with guns and bullets ARE little explosive charges.

    Meanwhile, the fact that the boy wasn’t allowed to see his parents while detained, a major violation of his due process, is hardly being touched.

    To me, the most important and interesting aspect to both these stories is Very Bad Reporting.


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