Wednesday, 13 February 2013


A meeting of the World Faiths Advisory Group (WFAG) at the University of Leicester's Chaplaincy Centre (The Gatehouse, University Road) this lunchtime.

Present today are Rev Canon Dr Stephen Forster (Coordinating Chaplain), Ian Snaith (Chair, WFAG), Chris Sharp (Equalities Adviser to the University of Leicester) and Resham Singh Sandhu (Chair of the Sikh Cultural and Welfare Society, Vice Chair of Leicestershire Interfaith Forum and past-Chair of Leicester Council of Faiths).

With Chris present at today's meeting, it makes sense to talk about the World Faiths Advisory Group's relation to the University's management of equality issues. Under the terms of the Public Sector Equality Duty, the University of Leicester - like all public bodies - has to apply itself to three aims of the general duty:
  • To eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Equality Act 2010. By removing or minimising disadvantages suffered by people due to their protected characteristics.
  • To advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not. By taking steps to meet the needs of people from protected groups where these are different from the needs of other people.
  • To foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not. By encouraging people from protected groups to participate in public life or in other activities where their participation is disproportionately low.

We discuss the possibility of establishing a Religion or Belief Forum, which would function alongside hose already operating at the university in relation to other Protected Characteristics as enumerated in the Equality Act 2010. If such a forum existed, it would free WFAG from having to be involved in governance issues and allow this group to make progress on issues that fall within its specific remit. I am able to speak to the meeting in support of this idea. It's been my experience that the Protected Characteristic of Religion or Belief is taken more seriously an treated with more respect when it is see in context with the other Protected Characteristics, rather than trying to stand alone outside the general scheme of things or to make special pleading on grounds of exceptionalism.



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