Jewish school's racial discrimination appeal quashed

18th December 2009 at 00:00
Supreme Court finds that denying admission to a 'non-Jew' was illegal

A Jewish school's decision to refuse entry to a boy on the grounds he was not a Jew amounted to racial discrimination, the Supreme Court upheld this week.

JFS in Brent, north-west London - formerly the Jewish Free School - saw its appeal quashed after the Court of Appeal ruled against the school's admission policy in June.

The 12-year-old, referred to as "M", was refused entry to the school by the chief rabbi on the grounds that he was not a Jew, despite his father being Jewish and his mother being so by conversion, albeit at a synagogue not recognised by the orthodox faith.

In a landmark decision the Supreme Court ruled against the school by a majority of five to four but maintained the law was unclear whether the method for admissions used by JFS would require it to admit children who were not regarded as Jewish by one or more of the established Jewish movements.

It said it may be arguable that a special exemption should be provided under the Race Relations Act to allow Jewish faith schools to operate such admissions policies.

Lady Hale, Supreme Court justice, said: "There may or not be a good case for allowing Jewish schools to adopt criteria that they believe to be required by religious law even if these are ethnically based."

But the decision was welcomed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, as well as the British Humanist Association (BHA). Andrew Copson, director of education and public affairs at the BHA, said: "This judgment is immensely important. It puts beyond doubt the position that, even though there may be a religious motivation for doing so, discrimination against children in admissions on racial grounds is illegal under any circumstances."

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