Teachers, the state and religious symbols: A question of professional ethics
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K. McDonough, B. Maxwell, & D. Waddington
Civil society & citizenship, Discrimination, Islamophobia, Social justice
Journal article

McDonough, K., Maxwell, B., & Waddington, D. (2015). Teachers, the state and religious symbols: A question of professional ethics. Theory and Research in Education, 13(3), 249–266. https://doi.org/10.1177/1477878515598054 


“This article considers the question of whether policies that propose to forbid public officials, most notably teachers, from wearing religious clothing in the classroom can be justified by political principles of secularism – specifically, the principle of state neutrality and the principle of state autonomy from religious influence. Two prominent arguments on behalf of an affirmative answer to this question are identified and evaluated, ultimately casting doubt on the cogency of prohibitionist arguments. The claim is then advanced that secular principles are most compellingly understood in educational contexts as principles of professional ethics – that is, as grounds for teacher reflection. To support this claim, we conclude by presenting two scenarios in which teachers face difficult decisions about whether to wear or remove an otherwise obligatory religious symbol. In this discussion, the importance of balancing considerations of religious conscience with the value of public trust is emphasized.”


The Teaching Against Islamophobia resources were developed with funding support from the Law Foundation of BC, and the Centre for Comparative Muslim Studies at SFU.


Image credit: “Vancouver Public Central Library” by GoToVan is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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