Pressure mounts on faith schools to end discriminatory practices

Pressure mounts on faith schools to end discriminatory practices

By staff writers
30 Oct 2009

Following the JFS case which is being heard at the Supreme Court, the Accord Coalition, which campaigns for inclusive schools, says that whatever judgement is finally reached, the questions raised in the hearing will prove critical in shaping the way state-funded schools of all faiths - not just Jewish ones - operate.

The chair of Accord, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain said yesterday: “Amid all the arguments and counter-arguments, the one clear principle to emerge is that if a school is based on selection, it will always be susceptible to accusations of discrimination. The best faith schools are those that seek to be as inclusive as possible, open in their admissions and wide-ranging in their religious syllabus”

Meanwhile, another prominent Christian voice has joined the growing number of faith-based groups questioning the way religion or belief is being used to determine admissions and employment in faith schools funded wholly or overwhelmingly out of the public purse.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 yesterday, author Rhidian Brook commented: "In the end most parents just want a good education for their children; but we need to be clear and honest about the fact that any schooling system that selects on academic, economic or faith grounds is by definition exclusive; and that such exclusivity really has no place in the 'school of faith' that Jesus established."

He declared: "The criteria for entry into [Jesus'] 'faith school' was not family, ethnicity or nationality - or even the outward signs of religious observance - but a total revolution within the spirit of that person", adding: "It's hard to imagine Jesus himself endorsing a system that asks parents to jump through a series of ritual hoops, when so much of what he said blows apart the cultural, ethnic and geographical conditions of entry that the religious authorities insisted on."

Others, including the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia, which is one of the co-founders of the Accord coalition, have argued strongly that discrimination on grounds of religion in admissions and employment is not just manifestly unfair on public grounds, but that it is contradictory to the core dynamic of Christian belief.

Accord: http://www.accordcoalition.org.uk/

Rhidian Brook's full 'Thought for the Day' broadcast: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/programmes/thought/documents/t20091029.shtml

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