Queen's Human Rights Bulletin
Volume II, Issue II; January 2006
The Akiyama Case (2002)
Do personal beliefs trigger freedom of religion?
In 2002, Mrs. Akiyama forbade her two children from bowing to their opponents in a judo competition. She explained to the officials that bowing was a Shinto religious practice, and that her children, who were not part of the Shinto faith, should not be required to observe the religious practices of another faith in order to compete in a sporting competition. When the judges refused to accommodate the children, by disqualifying them from the competition, Mrs. Akiyama filed a human rights complaint against Judo B.C. [Akiyama v Judo B.C. (2002), 43 CHRR D/425, 2002 BCHRT 27]
Is bowing in Judo a Shinto religious practice?
Is bowing a bona fide sporting requirement in Judo?
In these circumstances, did religious discrimination occur?
Did the officials fail to accommodate the Akiyamo children?
The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal found that bowing in Judo is a cultural ritual and not a religious gesture.
The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal found that bowing in judo is more of a cultural ritual than a sporting skill. Bowing to one's opponent before engaging in a fighting match is a gesture of courtesy and respect that embodies the philosophy of the sport. As such, it is is a bona fide sporting requirement.
The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal found that requiring the children to bow was not an act of religious discrimination. Even though they sincerely believed that bowing was religious, the belief was erroneous.
The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal found that because the bowing requirement was not religious in nature, there was no need for Judo B.C. to accommodate the children on the ground of religion.
Queen's Human Rights Bulletin - January 2006 - Queen's Human Rights Office