UK Supreme Court has found Jewish school guilty of race discrimination
#1
Jewish school loses places fight

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/8415678.stm

The Supreme Court has found a Jewish school guilty of race discrimination for refusing places to pupils it did not consider to be ethnically Jewish.

Nine justices ruled, by a small majority, that the JFS in London had breached race relations legislation.

The case was brought by a Jewish man whose son was not given a place because his wife was not regarded as Jewish under rules set by the Chief Rabbi.

The parents were angry that their Jewish status was being questioned.

'Not racist'

Giving the court's verdict, Supreme Court President Lord Philips said: "The majority of the court has concluded that the JFS admission policy does discriminate on the grounds of ethnic origin and is, in consequence, unlawful."

The closeness of the court's judgement indicates how complex this case was
Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks

"A minority disagrees, considering that the admission requirement is exclusively a religious requirement and does not depend on ethnic origin."

But he stressed that while the school had acted unlawfully over its admissions, it should not be regarded as racist.

"The majority have made it plain in their judgments that the fact that the JFS admission policy has fallen foul of the Race Relations Act certainly does not mean those responsible for the admissions policy have behaved in a way that is racist, as that word as generally understood."

The school went to the Supreme Court after three judges at the Court of Appeal ruled in June that the entry criteria had racially discriminated against the boy, known as M.

School 'disappointed'

Chairman of governors at the school Russell Kett said the school and governors were disappointed at the ruling.

"We must now set about establishing a more workable solution for a Jewish practice test to be used for admissions in 2011.

"JFS School felt it had no alternative than to continue to press for its test of 'Jewishness' to be based solely on orthodox Jewish religious law, rather than on a series of factors which themselves have no relevance under Jewish law, but which seem to support the notion of a test of Jewish practice required by the English legal system."

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks said the matter required "careful reflection and consultation" and instant reactions would be inappropriate.

"The closeness of the court's judgement indicates how complex this case was, both in English law and in debated issues of Jewish identity.

"Our office will be working closely together with the schools, the United Synagogue, the Board of Deputies and other interested parties to consider the implications of the verdict before making a full response."

Jewish mother

The 12-year-old boy was refused a place at the JFS (formerly known as the Jews' Free School) in Brent, north London, despite regularly attending a Progressive synagogue.

While his father is Jewish by birth, his mother is Jewish by conversion.

However, the conversion ceremony was conducted by a Progressive rather than an Orthodox synagogue, which is not recognised by the Office of the Chief Rabbi.

The children of atheists, and practising Christians, were allowed to attend the school as long as their mothers were considered Jewish.

Although Liberal Jews say faith is about belief rather than ethnic origin, Orthodox Jewish supporters of the school said the Supreme Court's ruling risked infringing their human rights by interfering with the way they have always been defined.

The BBC's religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott said the impact of the ruling on other faith schools was likely to be limited because of the close relationship between faith and ethnicity in Judaism.

He said the JFS and other Jewish schools would now have to test for admissions on the basis of religious belief and practice and participation in the Jewish community.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls said: "All faith schools must follow admission procedures that are non-discriminatory, and consistent with the admissions code and the law.

"This is the case in the vast majority of faith schools and I understand that the JFS has amended its admissions policy in light of updated guidance from the Office of the Chief Rabbi."





UK law Defective - Jerusalem Post OPINION

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1260930881798&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Dec 16, 2009 21:40 | Updated Dec 17, 2009 23:13

Yet another defect in UK law

By LESLIE WAGNER

The momentous decision by the narrowest of margins by the justices of the UK Supreme Court on Wednesday, that London's Jewish Free School (JFS), in refusing entry to the son of a Masorti convert, had breached the 1976 Race Relations Act, will reverberate, not just across the Jewish community, but in the legislature as well.

The facts are clear. The boy, known as M is the son of a Jewish father and an Italian Roman Catholic mother who converted to Judaism through the Masorti/Conservative movement. The couple have since divorced and M lives with his father. He wished to go to JFS, the oldest and largest Jewish school in Europe.

The school is under the religious guidance of the chief rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, and when there is an over-demand for places, preference is given to halachic Jews over others. Lord Sacks ruled that M was not halachicly Jewish, and therefore was not eligible. M's father appealed to the school's panel, which turned him down. He then appealed to the courts which at the lower level turned him down, but at the Court of Appeal he found support. At this point JFS, the United Synagogue, the chief rabbi and the Board of Deputies appealed to the highest court, the Supreme Court which has now delivered its verdict.

The judgment is a remarkable document. It begins with a quote from Deuteronomy, as the basis of the laws against intermarriage, refers later to famous converts, such as Ruth, Onkelos and Rabbi Akiva, and throughout shows the greatest respect for Judaism and Jewish law.

"Jewish law has enabled the Jewish people and the Jewish religion to survive throughout centuries of discrimination and persecution. The world would be a poorer place if they had not" is how one of the justices put it.

THE JUDGES knew that they were handling a very hot potato. As the president of the court himself put it, the court "has not welcomed being required to resolve this dispute." The fact that nine out of the 11 Supreme Court justices heard the case, an extremely high proportion, indicates its significance. That they were split more or less down the middle five to four indicates its complexity. The president of the court, Lord Justice Phillips, supported the decision of the Court of Appeal that the JFS action breached race legislation. His deputy, Lord Hope, did not.

The case hinged on whether Jews are a religious group or an ethnic group. If they are the former, then the race legislation does not apply. If the latter, then it does. The majority decided that Jews were both!

More precisely, they accepted that the chief rabbi's and the school's decision was made solely on whether M was Jewish as defined by religious criteria. However, as Judaism, uniquely, defines religious status through descent, rather than affirmation, this makes Jews an ethnic group as defined by the legislation and case law. We are Jews because our parents were Jewish, whether we believe or practice any Jewish principles or not. Converts can join this group, but they don't change the essential nature of the group.

The irony is that while the authenticity of M's conversion was the cause of the case, it was irrelevant to the ruling. All denominations within Judaism use descent as the key principle, and according to the court's ruling it doesn't matter whether they follow matrilineal or patrilineal descent.

In UK law, it makes Jews an ethnic group and disallows any discrimination between one Jew and another, and of course between Jew and non-Jew.

In making their ruling the justices were aware of the delicacy and implications of their decision. The majority, while stating that the logic of the argument of their interpretation of the law meant that the school had breached the race relations legislation, this did not mean that those involved were "racist." As one of the justices said, "The chief rabbi and the governors of JFS are free from any moral blame. That they have fallen foul of the 1976 act does not involve any reprehensible conduct on their part, for it is accepted on all sides that they acted on sincerely and conscientiously held beliefs. Their motives are unimpeachable... The grounds on which the rejection of M was made may well be considered perfectly reasonable in the religious context, but... they amount to ethnic grounds under the legislation."

This theme, that the outcome is an unintended consequence of legislation produced more than 30 years ago in a different context, recurs throughout the judgment, and is mentioned by 8 of the 9 judges. Indeed the president of the court, Lord Phillips, as early as the ninth paragraph states :"There may well be a defect in our law of discrimination."

The decision will have a major impact on how Jewish schools choose their pupils. Religious criteria will need to be introduced and the danger is that those from less religious homes, the very children who would benefit from Jewish schooling, may lose out. But for how long, remains to be seen. The justices have given Parliament the biggest possible hint that the law needs to be changed, and the legislature needs to rise to the challenge.

The writer is a former chancellor of the University of Derby and vice chancellor of Leeds Metropolitan University. He authored the report on the future of Jewish schools for the Jewish Leadership Council in the UK. He made aliya with his wife, Jennifer, at the end of last year and lives in Jerusalem.

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#2
(12-19-2009, 04:29 PM)stvincentferrer Wrote: But he stressed that while the school had acted unlawfully over its admissions, it should not be regarded as racist.

"The majority have made it plain in their judgments that the fact that the JFS admission policy has fallen foul of the Race Relations Act certainly does not mean those responsible for the admissions policy have behaved in a way that is racist, as that word as generally understood."

In other words, only white people can be racist as generally understood.
Reply
#3
(12-19-2009, 04:36 PM)Rosarium Wrote:
(12-19-2009, 04:29 PM)stvincentferrer Wrote: But he stressed that while the school had acted unlawfully over its admissions, it should not be regarded as racist.

"The majority have made it plain in their judgments that the fact that the JFS admission policy has fallen foul of the Race Relations Act certainly does not mean those responsible for the admissions policy have behaved in a way that is racist, as that word as generally understood."

In other words, only white people can be racist as generally understood.

Not just whites. Anybody but a Jew can be racist.
Reply
#4
(12-19-2009, 04:43 PM)stvincentferrer Wrote:
(12-19-2009, 04:36 PM)Rosarium Wrote:
(12-19-2009, 04:29 PM)stvincentferrer Wrote: But he stressed that while the school had acted unlawfully over its admissions, it should not be regarded as racist.

"The majority have made it plain in their judgments that the fact that the JFS admission policy has fallen foul of the Race Relations Act certainly does not mean those responsible for the admissions policy have behaved in a way that is racist, as that word as generally understood."

In other words, only white people can be racist as generally understood.

Not just whites. Anybody but a Jew can be racist.

That is a bit of a stretch.

I think many people who are non-white are forgiven for being racist in some way.
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#5
I wonder if the institution of inheritance is a violation of the race relations act, then the house of lords would have a lot of explaining to do, seeing that a good portion of the seats are filled through birth right, what is that to say about equal opportunity?  I see hypocrisy is alive and well in Grumpy Old Broken England.  The secularist have adopted a morality that they cannot possibly thrive upon and have taken the notion of tolerance into absurdity.  Abandoning justice for equality opens the door to greater injustice.  As for the Jews, I have never understood how religion is transmitted through the blood, it is a question I have put to many a Jew with no reasonable answer.  Either they are a nation or a religion; it's like saying I can't really be a Buddhist without having some Asian ancestry ???  This reminds me of a quote by Chesterton "Once abolish the God, and the government becomes the God".     
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