Trinidad and Tobago Humanist Association

tt.humanist :: forum :: commentary :: 2018 :: religion

Religious beliefs should not take precedence in state funded education

27 May 2018 • 276 words

In 1960, religious leaders in Trinidad and Tobago struck a Faustian bargain with the government when they agreed to sign the Concordat. In return for State funding, they ceded religious authority over their schools. No doubt these leaders felt they could finesse the arrangement to their own advantage but, in pursuing this strategy, religious tensions in the society have inevitably been exacerbated.

The latest controversy over whether an On-the-Job (OJT) Muslim trainee should be allowed to wear her hijab in a Hindu school is merely a symptom of this deeper problem. On the one hand, all religious denominations should be free to adhere and express their beliefs, once they don't trample other citizens' basic rights. On the other hand, when the State is funding any institution, religious beliefs should not take precedence in any form whatsoever.

So the real issue here is religious organisations trying to eat the State's cake and have it too. If denominational schools are really so committed to preserving their religious identities, they should refuse State funding and depend on students' fees instead. Then, short of harm, nobody can tell them what to practise and preach.

This issue, however, only reinforces the fundamental point that secularism is the fairest policy approach in a multi-religious society like ours.

T&T Humanist Association

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