The Accord Coalition, which campaigns for inclusive schools, has said that the JFS case currently being heard in the Supreme Court could have far wider implications beyond those for Jewish schools.
Accord Chair, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain declared: “This is a defining moment. For too long state-funded faith schools have had a free hand to discriminate. This will be a big first step towards creating faith schools that serve the community around them, not just themselves.”
The case has been brought by a Jewish family whose daughter was denied admission to the school on the grounds that her mother had converted in a Progressive synagogue. The family claim that admissions criteria based on descent rather than belief are contrary to the Race Relations Act.
In addition to the argument that the school is guilty of race discrimination, the claimants argue that only belief-based criteria can truly uphold the school ethos.
It is only in defence of the school’s ethos that discrimination in admissions is allowed.
Arguably, the same criticism could be made of Catholic schools which accept students on the grounds of an old baptism certificate, since this proves nothing about the current beliefs of either the parents or the child.
The appeal court ruling also found against school admissions that have the “inevitable effect” of enforcing divisions by race. This has led some to question as to whether other faith school admissions may be indirectly racially discriminatory.
Examples of this form of discrimination could include Muslims schools with an almost exclusively Asian intake or Christian schools in neighbourhoods where many people are non-Christians from ethnic minorities.
Ekklesia is a founding member of Accord, which campaigns for fair admissions, employment, curriculum and assembly policies in all Britain's publicly funded schools, irrespective of religion or belief.