New Zealand Panel Finds Bias Used Against Sabbath Observers

The New Zealand Human Rights Commission has upheld a discrimination complaint by two Jewish students against Victoria University in Wellington, which imposed extra fees on students who refused to take examinations on Saturdays.

The commission ordered the university to cease the practice and refund such fees paid since mid-1991, when the complaint was lodged.

“Students who wish to remain loyal to their faith should not have been placed in so invidious a position,” a spokesman for the Wellington Regional Jewish Council said.

The students, residents of Wellington, the New Zealand capital, complained that the policy was “inherently discriminatory,” stressful and conflicted “sharply with both the letter and spirit of the human rights legislation.”

They maintained it was culturally insensitive to observant Jews and others, such as Seventh Day Adventists, who observe their Sabbath on Saturday.

The Human Rights Commission’s ruling was hailed by the Jewish community for establishing the principle that all university students have a right to expect alternative examination arrangements if scheduled examinations conflict with their religious convictions.

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