Neil Barber, writing about the proposed ban on women driving their children to school by the Jewish British Belz Hasidic sect (Letters, 30 May), asks: “Should we seek to protect the freedom of private religious behaviour from state interference?”
He also writes that “the Jewish school is not trying to impose the ban on all women, only on those who subscribe to the religion” and argues that the adult women are free to leave.
As a fellow secularist and member of the Edinburgh Secular Society, I would like to make the following points:
Who should have the right to impose a driving ban on someone who holds a driving licence? Should it be anyone who finds the sight of certain car drivers offensive or should it be a judge? I’m sure most readers would agree that the former alternative is not the best option.
The majority of those who are members of a conservative religious sect are born into it, making a decision to leave very difficult, so the adult women’s “freedom” to leave is debatable.
Also, shouldn’t the children at the school remain free to witness their mothers’ (and role models’) freedom and independence at the wheel of a car?
Members of religious sects are of course also members of the wider community.
Finally, the principle of gender equality is essential to a modern democratic society and should consequently be upheld, promoted and protected by the state against any attempts to undermine it.
The role of secularism is not to condone misogynistic ideas under the guise of defending private religious behaviour, but to campaign for everyone’s equality before the law.