December 17th, 2009. A dangerous precedent has been set by the British Supreme Court in their ruling that the Jewish Free School admission policies are racially discriminatory and in violation of 1976 Race Relations Act. The JFS currently admits students that are considered Jewish based upon 3,500 year-old Orthodox Jewish criteria and traditions.
In effect the court has ruled that Orthodox Jewish and authorities no longer have the right to determine who is really a Jew. The right of definition now seems to lie with the state by default.
Neil Addison of the Thomas More Legal Centre gives the following observation that should give folks of every religion in the UK pause to consider (Link NLA):
“What the decision means is that the historic Jewish definition of ‘who is a Jew’ is now illegal and Orthodox Jewish organisations and schools can no longer apply their own definitions of membership. As a lawyer I can understand the technical legal argument but as a human being I regard it as a profoundly dangerous extension of state power. On the basis of this judgment an adult who Orthodox Jews do not accept as Jewish can apply to become an Orthodox Rabbi and the Orthodox synagogue cannot say no.
“What next? Will the courts have the power to say ‘The Pope does not accept that you are a Catholic but we do and so you are entitled to become a Catholic Priest’? On the basis of this judgment that is a possibility because at its heart what the judgment of the Supreme Court does is to attack the right of organisations and religions to have their own personal identity. It is the most insidious form of totalitarianism.”
Response: Happy Chanukah from the UK Supreme Court? It is ironic that this ruling comes in the midst of a Jewish holiday that commemorates a battle for freedom to practice their religion.
The implications of this ruling could be far reaching. Do religious organizations in the UK no longer have the right to determine the criteria for their own membership? One is left to wonder. Can Catholic organizations choose Catholics without being subject to discrimination? Can some non-state supported Protestant and Charismatic churches in the UK continue as they have before? Are all faith schools affected by this ruling?
One supposes that other religions may be unaffected unless challenged in the increasingly secularist UK court system then all bets are off.
Regardless, the freedom of religion in the UK has not been served well by this Supreme Court ruling and it is absolutely outrageous that the state would in effect claim the right to determine for the Jewish authorities who is now a Jew and and thereby eligible for a Jewish school.