Leading article: Religion, not race, is the key

Share
Related Topics

The Supreme Court's ruling that a Jewish school was guilty of racial discrimination for refusing to admit a child whose mother was not regarded as Jewish can be seen in a narrow and a broader context. It is welcome in both.

In the narrow context, the ruling effectively distinguishes between religious and ethnic criteria for admission to faith schools. This means that where a school is oversubscribed, it may not use race as a deciding factor. Faith schools are faith schools; they may not select the intake according to ethnicity.

This could be seen as presenting a particular problem for Jewish schools, because religion and ethnicity are so closely bound together as to be almost synonymous. The child in this test case had a Jewish father and was brought up in Judaism. But his mother was a convert and not considered Jewish according to criteria set by the Chief Rabbi. The distinction drawn by the Supreme Court means that where, as in this case, there might be a contradiction between faith and ethnicity, religion must be the decisive factor for admission to a faith school.

The judgment might be seen, and perhaps will be in some quarters, as a secular authority challenging the Chief Rabbi on what constitutes Jewishness. It should not be seen in this way. This is a ruling that applies to a particular, and quite unusual, circumstance. The court is not contesting the authority of the Chief Rabbi in matters of Jewishness, it is establishing what may and may not be grounds for selecting pupils to attend a faith school.

Even if the narrow aspect of the ruling probably has limited ramifications – similar contradictions are unlikely to arise with Church of England, Catholic or Muslim schools – the broader context is still important. Although reached by the slenderest of majorities, this judgment means that no school, faith school or any other, is above the law of the land. For the court to have upheld this school's admissions policy could have been seen as permitting race to be used as a qualification for school admission, and so the thin end of a dangerous wedge. This was a complex case, but one where a different ruling could have conveyed a highly undesirable message.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

After Savile, we must devote our energies to stopping the child abuse taking place now

Mary Dejevsky
A ‘hugely irritated’ Sir Malcolm Rifkind on his way home from Parliament on Monday  

Before rushing to criticise Malcolm Rifkind, do you know how much being an MP can cost?

Isabel Hardman
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower