London: Jewish school loses right to select pupil on religious grounds

A Jewish  secondary school, the JFS in Brent, north-west London, lost its right to select a pupil on religious grounds today, following a ruling by nine Supreme Court justices.

Today's  case was brought by a Jewish man whose son was refused a place because his mother was deemed to be not Jewish by the Chief Rabbi.  Most of the justices dismissed the school’s appeal but made it clear their ruling should not be taken to mean that any party to the case could be considered ‘racist’.

It could be argued that a special exemption should be provided under the Race Relations Act, the justices added.

Ministers fear the judgment means 100 state and private Jewish schools are breaking race laws by selecting pupils who conform to their beliefs.

But children’s secretary Ed Balls vowed to protect the right of faith schools to select pupils on the grounds of their religion.

"We are going to need to look carefully at the implications of this," he added.

Russell Kett, chairman of the JFS governors, was "disappointed" at the ruling.

Oona Stannard, who heads the Catholic Education Service for England and Wales, said: "I am very disappointed at today's ruling in which a secular body, ie the Supreme Court, is deciding on the matter of membership of a faith group for the purposes of schools' admissions.  What constitutes membership of a faith group or a religious denomination should be a matter for that faith or denomination to determine.  That any other authority should deem to do this in place of the faith group, or for a body outside the faith group to claim that its decision as to what constitutes membership has priority, is a sad and undermining state of affairs.

"It is important whilst noting our sympathy for our Jewish brothers and sisters, to remind that the judgment should not impact on Catholic schools.  This is because the definition of being Catholic is clearly based on baptism and not on any ethnic or other factors.

"We will continue to keep this situation under close review."

Source: CES

Read also: Paul Valelly in The Independendent: 'So You Call Yourself Jewish'

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