Supreme Court bans JFS racial discrimination

Today, the British Supreme Court ruled that the policy of the Jews’ Free School (or JFS) of taking converts to Judaism only when they had been through one denomination’s conversion ritual rather than another was racially discriminatory. The problem was that the school accepted that people who could trace their Jewish ancestry through the maternal line were Jewish, even if they were Christians or atheists, but a boy whose father was Jewish and whose mother converted through a ritual their branch of Judaism does not recognise is not accepted.

What that amounts to is that JFS is mainly for the descendents (at least, in the maternal line) of a particular group of Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe in the early 20th century. If the school required pupils to be practising Judaism, it might be more acceptable. There might have been a time when children of Jewish ancestry, regardless of religious practice, needed their own school. That time isn’t now, particularly if a child has a non-Jewish surname because his father is not Jewish even though his mother is. It’s ridiculous. I support faith schools, but there is no place for racially exclusive ones. Particularly for a mostly white ethnic group.

Still, it still leaves the possibility that religious tests could be used to narrow the members of a particular religion who might gain access to a school. When I visited a certain northern town a few years ago, I was in a mosque and noticed that the membership rules were posted on the walls. It specified that members must be “Sunni-Hanafi-Deobandi with Tablighi ethos”, and that excludes pretty much any Muslim from outside the Indian subcontinent. Would this kind of restriction fall foul of racial discrimination laws? It should, in my opinion. I’m not saying any Muslim group is doing this now, but it could happen, and not just with the group mentioned.

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