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Woman wearing black sleeveless dress

In March, 2019, the British Columbia Legislature found itself in the midst of controversy over women’s right to bare arms. Some interesting observations can be made from the reports.

The Dress Code Policy

First, the legislature has a policy that men and women must wear “suitable business attire.”  The existence of a policy not only outlines the authority’s intention in writing, thereby lessening the possibility of confusion and arbitrary application of the principles, but it clearly states that it is to be applied to both men and women. What is “suitable business attire” was also outlined clearly in the policy for both genders.

Nevertheless, it was reported that female staff are not opposed to a dress code but they are concerned about a lack of clear rules and guidelines. Still, as the policy appears to be clear, it is likely more a case of disliking the rules and guidelines rather than them being non-existent or unclear.

Can Men Bare Arms, Too, Then?

According to the policy, neither men nor women are to dawn bare arms, a fact that seems to escape the attention of those criticizing the policy as being biased against women. In his tweet about the dispute, Ian McAndrew justifiably pointed out “If women no longer have to dress in a professional manner, I hope that the new dress code will also allow men to go sleeveless and wear muscle shirts instead of suits and ties; fair is fair!”

Societal Changes

A comment was also made that “Society changes as we go forward in time. But sometimes there are things that need to be kept in tradition. Proper decorum and dress in the Speaker’s corridor and within the chamber is something that is being upheld at this point.” Still, the protesters insist that the policy needs to be modernized. Here, we note that God and His Word do not change [Hebrews 13:8 * Malachi 3:6 * James 1:17 * Numbers 23:19 * Isaiah 40:8 * Psalm 102:25-27 * Psalm 119:89 * Psalm 33:11 * Psalm 90:2]. Thus, His principles regarding modesty has not and will not change.


The existence of the reported “protest” is somewhat concerning. In essence, it challenged the Legislature’s authority to adhere to its dress code but was also steeped in individualism rather than cohesive corporate professionalism.

Zeal for Group Identity

I recall in the early days of my Christian journey being zealous towards the national principle in Esther 3:8 (though I developed it before reading Esther). I marveled at the notion of being a visibly distinct people/nation–like orthodox Jews, Muslims, Amish, and certain other faith groups.  I simply believed that it would be easier for us if we all said the same thing regarding modesty, including for witnessing, for raising our children together (i.e. avoiding parents of different households saying different things but their children are friends with each other), for strength in numbers at school, workplace or other parts of society.

Unfortunately, I’ve had to learn over the years that we don’t all have the same convictions for various reasons. Thus, it can be a challenge for church leaders to apply biblical principles, counsel and guide with so many convictions and interpretations in a congregation.

Respectful Questions

Still, any questions and concerns posed to leadership should be made respectfully, with an open heart sincerely seeking understanding and desirous of honouring God. Questions towards revelation and enlightenment should also be posed to God, Himself, in prayer. Furthermore, unity and oneness are to be earnestly pursued. As the Church is a theocracy, rather than a democracy, “protest” is generally speaking, inappropriate.

Modesty Includes Humility

Finally, I note some reported statements over the dispute which lack the humility of which true modesty is comprised:

“I think it is worth having a conversation about what is particularly  unprofessional about short sleeves.”

“…women kind of felt we were being told our arms were not acceptable in a   professional context, which seems really ridiculous…”

“One of my staff was told by the leg assembly to wear a slip under her dress as it was clinging to her legs as she walked. Heaven forbid people realize she has limbs under her skirt! The women in this building are here to work, not dress for outdated rules,”

“The notion of telling women how to dress is indeed crazy…they are all capable of making decisions on how they dress.”

This very short video report on the dispute also illustrates the “heart” sentiments of protesters.

Sample Letter

Those on my email list received a sample letter to church staff to address clothing issues in church. If you wish to receive the sample letter, subscribe to my email list here.

Profile Photo Andrea P. Kelly is a disciple of Jesus Christ, having started her faith journey in October, 1998 when she was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Andrea strives to make disciples in obedience to the Great Commission and has held church leadership positions in Evangelism, as well as Administration/Operations.

Andrea is also a Lawyer and Notary Public at Andrea Kelly Law, called to the Ontario bar in 2001 with practice focus in Estate Planning and Administration. Her battle and victory over rheumatoid arthritis using natural health alternatives was a pivotal, life changing experience. Andrea`s desire to help people find solutions to some of life`s problems, including support for health and faith-related matters, was birthed as Pearls of Wisdom.

Whereas Andrea spent the first part of her career helping people to die well, she now wants to help people to live well.


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