British Christian schools could face a European Commission investigation, following complaints from a humanist campaign group.
The British Humanist Association (BHA) claims that faith schools breach European Union (EU) equality rules when hiring staff, because they say religious adherence is a “desirable” quality.
EU rules state that schools must prove there is a “genuine occupational requirement” in preferring to recruit teachers of faith.
Spokesman for The Christian Institute, Simon Calvert, said church schools are “hugely popular”, and their ethos is why “they do such a good job of preparing children for life in 21st-century Britain”.
“It’s disappointing that humanists seem to be so intolerant of religious organisations seeking to remain religious. There’s a relentless agenda to secularise religious organisations.
“If they were to succeed, it would severely damage these church schools and undermine the great work that they do”, he commented.
Last year the European Commission suspended a similar investigation, after it found that faith schools were abiding by the law.
A spokesman for the Commission confirmed that it was considering the new complaint, after the BHA submitted job adverts as evidence.
The Department for Education has said that government guidance allowing faith schools to prefer religious teachers conforms to the EU directive, which sets out the “genuine occupational requirement”.
Earlier this month, the Chief Education Officer for the Church of England defended the principles of faith schools, after schools’ regulator Ofsted hit out at a Sunderland school for its Christian ethos.
Nigel Genders said that good education involves more than receiving positive feedback from Ofsted, and highlighted the importance of teaching children about religion in order to prevent extremism.
He also warned against removing religion from the classroom.
He said: “Extremism thrives when religion is banished to dark corners. If we reject religion from our schools, we are failing to prepare young people for the realities of life in a modern and globalised world.”