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Assignment Five: Integrative Essay
 A Student’s Religious Day of Worship Conflicts with Required Class Attendance
Linda McGill

Instructor: Tom Strong
Campus Alberta

July 21, 2004


A Student’s Religious Day of Worship Conflicts with Required Class Attendance



A student is taking continuing education through the University of Calgary's distance learning program.  She was well into the program before she discovered that over the three years of her program, there would be four weekends that required her physical attendance and participation.  She is stressed because as a Seventh-day Adventist, she observes the biblical Sabbath and keeps the 7th day (Saturday) sacred from sundown Friday evening until sundown Saturday evening.  As a school counsellor, how do I use my code of ethics to help this girl and what tools can I offer her that will help her to find a solution while protecting her self-esteem?


Why this topic is important to me

This topic is vitally important to me as I face this dilemma myself. Because of my religious beliefs as a Seventh-day Adventist, I do not work or study on Saturday.  This day is the biblical Sabbath and the word actually means “rest” day (of course the bible recognizes necessary activities relating to people’s health and emergency needs).  I believe that the world’s specific seven-day weekly cycle comes directly from Creation week. (Genesis 2:2,3).  There is no astronomical or logical reason for the weekly rotation of “7”.  It carries the stamp of the Creator God and is the most important number in the bible, representing completeness.

Sabbath observance is an ancient practise and the word “Sabbath” is still synonymous with Saturday in 160 languages of the world.  Most people have heard of the Ten Commandments but do not realize that the 4th commandment sometimes referred to as the “forgotten” commandment, is a memorial of Creation and reads thus:

Remember the Sabbath day, by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God.  On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.   For in six days the LORD made heavens and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.  Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and made it holy. (Holy Bible, NIV, 1990, Exodus 20: 8-11)


There are millions of people who have a very personal interest in issues relating to the Sabbath.  My church is a community of about twenty million people and there are millions of Jews as well as 7th-day Baptists and Pentecostals.  In addition, there are those who observe Sunday so closely that they also face similar issues.  (check www.adventist.org)

Religious liberty and inclusion of varied cultures and faiths is part of who we are in Canada and the United States.  This foundation gives us our freedom and is what makes us unique.  A society, country or even an educational institution can make rules that exclude a minority group.  What if a public institution said that only blue-eyed people with blond hair could attend?  Actually, isn’t there a country in recent history that did something like that?  Also, the period of history known as the Dark Ages, and Europe’s experiment with communism shows what can happen when minority views are not accommodated.

One of the reasons this problem is not encountered more often is because those of a minority will usually do their best to integrate smoothly or find an alternate means of meeting their needs.  For example, the 7th-Day Adventist Church owns and operates 5,605 schools from the K-level right up to college and university and is the most wide spread Protestant denomination in the world.  I attended my first three years of college at one of these institutions (Walla Walla College) and my daughter has just been accepted to the Loma Linda University School of Medicine (known for its pioneering infant heart transplant success).  (see www.adventist.org)

Most people do not understand or care why a few should be so concerned about a day of worship.  And because of that, many Sabbath keepers are forced from their employment opportunities.  One can feel quite alone when bringing these issues into the public thinking process.  Some have done just that, however, and the record of their legal proceedings sets precedent and policy for our work places and our schools.  Some of these cases will be referred to in the appendix.

My husband left his employment because of Sabbath problems and once wrote to the editor of British Columbia’s primary, commercial, fishing magazine to explain the impact of Saturday openings.  And while writing as a weekly, newspaper columnist, he also included some spiritual articles and prepared several short pieces on the Sabbath question.  I will include these in the appendix, as well.   

This is a real issue and one that I am facing.  I did not notice that the weekend practicum seminars require me to attend four days of Saturday classes.  However, as I research the ethical standards of CPA and investigate other institutions to see how they deal with similar issues, I believe that I can make a strong case for the university to be all-inclusive.  Pettifor (2001) suggests, “To the extent that those who are different from the dominant group(s) are vulnerable to neglect or discrimination, these values require psychologists to take extra care to protect their rights and serve their best interests” (p. 29). This, I believe, is also in the public interest.

CANADIAN CODE OF ETHICS FOR PSYCHOLOGISTS (2000) (cited in Sinclair & Pettifor, 2001, p. 108)
The Four Ethical Principles with Their Respective Values and Standards




Respect for the Dignity of Persons

Responsible Caring

Integrity in Relationships


Responsibility to Society

  • General Respect 
(I.1-I.4); particularly I.1 & 1.2
  • General Rights 
(I.5-I.8); particularly I.5
  • Non-discrimination (I.9-I.11); particularly I.9 & I.10
  • Fair Treatment/Due Process 
(I.12-I.15) particularly I.12 & I.15
  • Informed Consent (I.16-I.26)
  • Freedom of Consent (I.27-I.30)
  • Protection for Vulnerable Persons (I.31-I.36); particularly I.36
  • Privacy 
  • Confidentiality 
  • Extended Responsibility
(I.46-I.47); particularly I.46.
  • General Caring 
II.1-II.5); particularly II.1 & II.2
  • Competence & Self-Knowledge 
(II.6-II.12); particularly II.9 & II.10.
  • Risk/Benefit Analysis
(II.13-II.17); particularly II.14
  • Maximize Benefit
(II.18-II.26); particularly II.22.
  • Minimize Harm 
(II.27-II.36); particularly II.29
  • Offset/Correct Harm 
(II.37-II.44); particularly II.37
  • Care of Animals 
  • Extended Responsibility 
  • Accuracy/Honesty
  • Objectivity/Lack of Bias 
(III.10-III.13); particularly III.10.
  • Straightforwardness /Openness 
(III.14-III.22); particularly III.16
  • Avoidance of Deception
  • Avoidance Conflict of Interest
  • Reliance on the Discipline
(III.36-III.38); particularly III.36, III.38.
  • Extended Responsibility
  • Development of Knowledge
  • Beneficial Activities
(IV.4-IV.14); particularly IV.6, IV.7, IV..8
  • Respect for Society
(IV.15-IV.18); particularly IV.17
  • Development of Society
(IV.19-IV.29); particularly IV.21, IV.25
  • Extended Responsibility




Resolving the Dilemma

Ethical Decision Making Skills:

Using the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists and CPA’s Ethical Decision-Making Process (CPA, 2000), as the school counsellor, I will go through the following steps:

Step1.  Identification of the individuals and groups potentially affected by the decision:

            The primary individual and group affected by my decision will be the student and the university.  The student’s church will be interested, as will other faiths whether or not they believe similarly.  As well, the university and instructors may be affected in the effort to accommodate and include the student.

Step 2. Identification of ethically relevant issues and practices, including the interests, rights, and any relevant characteristics of the individuals and groups involved and of the system or circumstances in which the ethical problem arose.

Using CPA and the “four ethical principles with their respective values and standards” (CPA, 2000) and the Companion Manual (Pettifor and Sinclair, 2001) as a reference, I came up with several ethical values that are relevant to this case.  For reference to the code, see table.  The highlighted codes in blue are the primary codes of interest.

Principle I. Respect for the Dignity of Persons

I.1& I.2: It is important that I respectfully listen to this student’s story.  By trying to understand her viewpoint, I can perhaps learn where she is coming from and empathize more closely.  I will not degrade her religious viewpoint and thinking even though I may not understand or value it.   However, it is to my advantage that I have some knowledge of her thought process.

I.5: Valuing various cultural and religious beliefs, will help me to respect her moral rights.  Glasser  et al. (1995) suggests, “Reliance upon even an informed intuition can lead to a moral relativism that does not always result in sound ethical choices and that can be destructive to clients” ( p. 20).  It can be a real challenge to meet diversity.

I.9: Pettifor (2001) states, “To the extent that those who are different from the dominant group(s) are vulnerable to neglect or discrimination, these values require psychologists to take extra care to protect their rights and serve their best interests” (p. 29). How can I meet the student’s needs while at the same time honor the program that Campus Alberta has set up?

I.10: Home and Pettifor (2001) suggest, “When personal distress is caused by societal pressures rather than by personal pathology, the remedies must focus on society rather than on the individual” (p.450).  Although this is the student’s personal problem, it is still a societal issue.  Is there a way for the university to help this student meet her requirements for this program and at the same time allow her to maintain her religious practices?

I.12 & I.16: Glaser et al. (1995) posit, “Inclusion of the client in the decision-making process is simply a matter of making the best possible decision” (p. 27). Perhaps part of the solution would be to ask the student to come up with solutions for her problem.

I.36: This code particularly suggests offering her an alternative activity to fulfill her educational goals if this program is onerous or coercive.  

I.46: Pettifor (2001) states, “Ethically, professionals are required to respect diversity and increase their understanding of individuals, groups, and communities.  Sensitivity and understanding can be developed but rarely enforced” (p. 33).   Wrong conception can cause a lot of damage.

Principle II. Responsible Caring

II. 1 and 2: If our roles were reversed, how would I want to be treated?   Home and Pettifor (2001) suggest, “Those who are affected most by the suffering that results from oppressive aspects of society are the most adamant about the need for social action” (p.452).  Building a relationship with this student is key to success.

II. 9: Other cases that deal with religious diversity or conflict could be useful in helping me deal with this ethical dilemma.  There are numerous cases on this subject and the most recent was decided just a few weeks ago involving a Jewish group that wanted to have a hut on the balcony (of their condo) for a few days in the year.  The company said that they could not be accommodated but the court said that they had to be accommodated.  (Syndicate Northwest v. Amselem, 2004)  

The leading case for schools, according to the Human Rights Office at Simon Fraser University, is a case where a 7th-Day Adventist employee was accommodated for his Sabbath observance.  A schedule was worked out for him and even the Union Collective Agreement had to bend.  The same principles apply.  (Central Okanagan School District No. 23 v. Renaud, 1992)

II.10: Are my own assumptions about this student and her beliefs affecting my decision making process?  Schulz (2000) expounds, “Counsellors need not approve of clients’ values, but the way in which counsellors deal with differences in values is all-important” (p. 7).  Perhaps if I try to look at this situation through this student’s eyes, I would better understand where she is coming from.

II.14: Pettifor (2001)  “Philosophical assumptions … need to be examined and clarified in order to guide professionals toward intentional ethical decision making in multicultural settings.  This is in contrast to the exclusionary stance of imposing one’s own familiar worldview on others” (p. 27).  As an advocate for this student I will be open to asking her questions in a respectful manner.

II. 22: By monitoring the schools curriculum when issues arise, our school will build a better organization.  Corey et al (1998) posit, “Counsellors must move outside their traditional roles to meet the needs of diverse individuals and groups within a community” (p. 349).

II.29 & II. 37:  Although our university has the best interest of our students in mind, our curriculum goes against one of our student’s religious beliefs.  Pettifor (1998) states, “There is strong emphasis on professionals being aware of their own personal attitudes and beliefs in order to serve the needs of diverse populations without inadvertently imposing their own views” (p. 232).  This code also suggests terminating an activity if it causes more harm than good.  Refusing to help this student find alternative means to work around her Sabbath could be thought of as discrimination.

            Principle III: Integrity in Relationships

III.10: Glaser et al (1995) suggests, “Look at the personal characteristics and values that she or he brings to the definition of the problem.  This evaluation is particularly necessary if the clinician differs in any significant cultural way (gender, race, class, etc.) from the other players in the situation” (p. 29).  It might take special effort to relate to a different way of thinking.

III. 16: It is imperative that we are open with this student in a respectful way.   Asking questions of her will clarify our understanding of the situation.  Perhaps there are some surprises for all involved and maybe the student has information that will impact on the situation in a new way. 

III.36 & III. 38: Pettifor (1994), instructs, “Program evaluations can be methodologically correct, comply with stated ethical principles, and yet be morally wrong because they violate concepts of social justice” (p. 138).  It is important that our university not become isolated.  Consulting with other universities could help us to further understand various methods of dealing with diversity.

            Principle IV: Responsibility to Society

IV. 6, IV.7, & IV.8: Glasser et al. (1995) suggest, “Personal experiences of oppression and the uses of power… will sensitize that individual in certain ways.  Those same factors and others (such as religious background…) will influence the therapist’s priorities and assumptions” (p. 25).  Regardless of our expertise and training, we can continue to learn from others the importance of their value systems. 

IV: 17: Pettifor (1994) says, “More attention should be paid to Autonomy and Fidelity, and to the dilemmas resulting when the obligation of some of these ethical principles are in conflict” (p. 140).  Acceptance and tolerance is appreciated, as people have different values and worldviews. 

IV. 21& IV. 25 Pettifor (2001) proposes: “ A sense of social justice and responsibility to society requires professionals to work in various ways to change political structures and power relationship that present barriers to a better quality of life for people of all cultures and colours” (p. 33).  Diversity is what this country is all about.  Working with this student to help her solve this dilemma will empower her to complete the program and at the same time she will respect and appreciate the university’s contribution to her success.


Step 3 Consideration of how personal biases, stresses or self-interest might influence the development of or choice between courses of action

If I am of a different religion or no religion, my understanding can be affected.  I might know, or think I know that the client is dead wrong and has a flawed belief system.  I might be tempted to think that a whole class structure and scheduling should not have to bend for one person’s strange beliefs when there is no problem for anyone else.


Step 4: Development of alternative courses of action

I have developed two alternatives that I feel would work with CPA’s standards and both are reasonably ethical.

Alternative one: I will check to see if my understanding regarding the school’s responsibility to this girl is correct.  It would seem that she should bend since the time involved (four Saturdays out of three years) is so insignificant, but what does our Human Rights Policy dictate?  I will check with the appropriate department.  I will inform her that there is always an avenue of appeal if she feels strongly. I will also check for her to see if her situation has been encountered before and how it was handled.  I will ask her if she knows of others who have faced this situation and what was done and I will also ask her whether or not her church organization has resources available.    

Alternative two:  I will give her the tools to do her own research and I will do my best to empathize with the girl and try to understand her thinking in regards to the dilemma she faces.  I will suggest that she check with others who may have faced this problem and see what their solution was.  I will suggest that she check with her church, the university’s Human Rights Office and the professors who teach her classes.  I will ask her to also think of any possible ways that she might be able to help so as to make any potential accommodation easy for all involved and I will ask her to report back to me so that we can analyze the situation further.  At the very least, I will do my best to make whatever course of action may be available, as painless for her as possible.


Step 5: Analysis of likely short-term, ongoing and long-term risks and benefits of each course of action on the individual(s) groups involved or likely to be affected. 


Alternative one: Possible Positive and Negative Consequences:

Positive: By checking out possible solutions for the student, I show that I care and am interested in helping her.  This would also build her self-esteem and would help to build a working relationship with the student.

Negative: This alternative puts the onus on me and makes me responsible for exploring the student’s rights and responsibility.  As I feel this is the girl’s problem, I am uncomfortable with finding solutions for her.

Positive: By reviewing other cases, I can find out if our campus meets the needs of diversified students.

Negative:   Although, I want to advocate for her, I would much prefer working with her to find solutions, as ultimately, this is her problem.

Alternative two: Possible Positive and Negative Consequences:

Positive: The student might be able to solve her problem and in the process pave the way for others and make resources that helped her, available to both students and instructors.

Negative: Pursuing a course of action that is so unique might test the girl’s resolve and her emotional strength. The patience of those who she hopes will help her might wear thin. 

Positive: Giving her tools to do her own research will enable her and will also show her that I empathize and will try to understand her thinking.

Negative: This situation could come up again and by putting the entire onus on the student to do the research could be detrimental to the university because solutions should be a community venture.


Step 6: Choice of course of action after conscientious application of existing principles, values and standards


I have chosen alternative two and will encourage her to do the research and then discuss with me possible solutions.  This will show her that I believe in her ability to problem solve and I also respect her diversity.  Pettifor (1996) recommends, “In resolving an ethical dilemma, consideration is first given to the probable consequences of each alternative course action (the risk or benefit) in terms of respect and caring for the involved parties.  This process emphasizes principle or value-based decision-making over rule-compliance” (p.3).  As she reports back to me her findings, I will become aware of the university’s responsibility and also build a working alliance with the student that respects her diversity.

Step 7: Action, with a commitment to assume responsibility for the consequences of the action  


I encouraged the girl to gather some information with the understanding that I would help her evaluate and implement as soon as that was accomplished. The student contacted a friend who had faced a similar issue himself and he reported that there had been an exam schedule that conflicted with his Sabbath.  When he approached the professor, the exam was immediately scheduled to meet his needs and he said that the professor had told him that in Montreal, where there is a large Jewish community, exams and classes are never scheduled on Saturday.  Since her friend (Doug) worked in a program administered by Simon Fraser University, he contacted a colleague who emailed SFU’s Human Rights Office and the following communication was received:

>>X-Sender: betaylor@popserver.sfu.ca
>>To: joan_collinge@sfu.ca
>>From: betaylor@sfu.ca
>>Subject: Re: quick question
>>Date: Wed, 07 Jul 2004 19:03:32 -0700
>>Reply-To: betaylor@sfu.ca
>>X-Virus-Scanned: by ebola.sfu.ca running antivirus scanner
>>Hi Joan,
>>I don't know who the person is at U of C but they do have a similar
>>position to mine.
>>SFU's position on this matter would be to comply fully with the law
>>- the student is entitled to "accommodation up to the point of undue
>>hardship" which means the University must take all measures up to
>>the most onerous (and undue) to accommodate religious practice -
>>I'll be in the office tomorrow and I'd be pleased to discuss this
>>with you in greater detail.  It is frequently the case that people
>>(including those of goodwill) are unaware of their legal
>>obligations, and refuse to accommodate for reasons like the
>>following, "You knew these were the course requirements when you
>>signed up, now it is up to you to make yourself available".  They
>>have no clue that the law requires otherwise.  The leading case
>>comes from BC, and the complainant was a Seventh Day Adventist.

Joan Collinge, PhD
Centre for Distance Education
Simon Fraser University
Telephone:  604-291-4756
Within B.C.  1-800-663-1411
Fax:  604 - 291-4964

            The student agreed with Doug’s assessment when he returned a note of thanks:

Hi Joan,
>Yes, this does help.  As an Adventist I would be uncomfortable with
>having my "rights" met to the point of undue hardship, but I'm also
>uncomfortable with religious rights being easily dismissed.  All things
>must be weighed in the balance.

            The student also contacted her church’s Religious Liberty Department for Canada and received information about legal cases that pertained to her situation.  And the attorney representing the British Columbia office advised that she should do her best to make the accommodation easy for all involved.  He said that he had once faced similar problems and had paid extra for an instructor to administer his exams. 


After contacting the University of Calgary’s Human Rights office, the student learned that her school’s position was the same as that of SFU’s.  She then did her best to learn what was involved in the Saturday classes that she would be missing and came up with several possible solutions (Web Cam presentations, special session with other students at a specified location and time).  My responsibility is to continue working with this student and to continue helping her find possible solutions.

Step 8: Evaluation of the results of the course of action 

This girl has come up with various possibilities to solve her problem and satisfy all concerned with the least possible inconvenience.  And we have built a working relationship together. She states that had she known about her problem sooner, she probably would not have taken the class, or at the very least, would have explored other options.  But now that she is to this point, she thinks her situation may not be as difficult as she first thought.  And the process has opened her eyes to solutions that she never knew existed and she considers the knowledge and education gained in the process to be very valuable. As school counsellor, I concur.  I commended her for having found solutions and I felt good about my role in giving her the confidence and the tools to proceed. 

    The student has renewed confidence and left my office happily.   Pettifor (1994) explains, “The dilemmas and responsibilities are great for professionals and non-professionals alike who are committed to social justice in a society of great diversity and great complexity” (pp.  144,145).  Realizing that the educational process is adaptable to her needs in this case, she plans on working with her instructors to plan alternatives.

Step 9: Assumption of responsibility for consequences of action, including correction of negative consequences, if any, or reengaging in the decision-making process if the ethical issues is not resolved

As I reviewed my input, I felt good about having followed my code and guide standards and ethics.  I was also able to empathize with her and encourage her in spite of her beliefs, which admittedly, are quite different from the majority beliefs encountered.  And I was pleased that she was able to find her own solution within the context of a positive self-image.

Also, I believe that my decision can meet public scrutiny.  Pettifor and Sinclair (2001) suggest, “Decisions of personal conscience are also expected to be the result of a decision making process which is based on a reasonably coherent set of ethical principles and which can bear public scrutiny” (p. 21).  If others involved in helping students with similar situations were to review the way I helped this student, I can show that I respected her uniqueness and helped her find solutions.


Step 10: Appropriate action, as warranted and feasible, to prevent future occurrences of the dilemma (e.g. communication and problem solving with colleagues, changes in procedures and practices



After working with this student, I found that it is very important to listen first so that I understand the student’s unique needs before I decide on a course of action.   Pettifor (2001) suggests,  “The lack of attention to multicultural issues in counseling and the tolerance for violations of the generalized guidelines that do exist demonstrate how principles are violated without consequences” (p. 31).  I appreciate that this student was willing to work with me.  She did not confront me with her rights.  We were able to work together to come up with solutions.  I think it is imperative to listen to people’s beliefs even though they may be very different from my own.  If at all possible, our university needs to accommodate diversity



Describe how your personal values interface with the professional values and whether this presents any dissonance or personal conflict for you.  What changes in the dilemmas described could have made it easier, or more difficult, for you personally?


            Personally, I was very involved in this dilemma as I am facing this situation myself.  And at this point, it hasn’t yet been resolved. In this dilemma, the school counsellor has been very accommodating and helpful.  This gives the student respect and encouragement to come up with solutions.   As I have become aware of the university’s policy, I am hopeful for my own situation.  Now that I know that other cases have addressed the Sabbath accommodation issue, the dilemma does not appear so difficult. There will be inner conflict sometimes but I do my best to put my personal views aside so that I can operate on a professional level.  As the school counsellor, I would try to be very accommodating to students that have needs that vary from the school curriculum because of my own diversity. 





Bakal, D., Dobson, K., & Hesson, K. (1993). Legal issues and applications to clinical practice. Canadian Psychology, 34(3), 317-328.

Canadian Psychological Association (2000).  Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists (3rd ed.).  Ottawa: Author

Central Okanagan School District No. 23 v. Renaud, Retrieved July 15, from             http://www.lexum.umontreal.ca/cscscc/en/pub/1992/vol2/html/1992scr2_0970.html

Glasser, K., Harden, J., & Hill, M. (1995). A feminist model for ethical decision making. In Larsen, C. & Rave, E. (Eds.), Ethical decision making in therapy: Feminist perspective (pp. 18-37). New York: Guildford Press.

Holy Bible, New International Version (1990) Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan Publishing House.

Home, K. & Pettifor, J. (2001). Professional ethics: Social responsibility or the status quo? In R. Roth & S. Neil (Eds.). A matter for life: Psychological theory, research and practice, 449-456.

Pettifor, J.  (1996). Ethics: Virtue and politics in the science and practice of Psychology. Canadian Psychology, 37(1), 1-12.

Pettifor, J. (2001). Are professional codes of ethics relevant for multi-cultural counselling? Canadian Journal of Counselling, 35(1), 26-35.

Pettifor, J., & Sinclair, C. (2001). Companion Manual to the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists (3rd  ed.). Ottawa: Canadian Psychological Association.

Pettifor,J. (1998). The Canadian code of ethics for psychologists: A moral context for ethical-decision making in emerging areas of practice. Canadian Psychology, 39, 231-238.

Schulz, W. (2000). Counselling Ethics Casebook 2000. Ottawa: Canadian Counselling Association.

Syndicate Northwest v. Amselem, 2004. File Nos.: 29253, 29252.  Retrieved July 19, 2004,         from http://www.lexum.umontreal.ca/csc-scc/en/rec/html/2004scc047.wpd.html





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