Jewish school ruling looks like “tyranny”

A controversial UK Supreme Court ruling effectively says the Jewish faith’s definition of membership is “illegal”, a national newspaper columnist has warned.

Daily Telegraph writer Charles Moore was responding to the judges’ ruling last week, which was decided by a five to four majority, over a Jewish school’s admission policy.

The case involved a boy whose application to attend the secondary school, JFS, was turned down on the grounds that he didn’t meet the criteria because his mother is non-Orthodox.

Mr Moore said: “The court is effectively saying that a religion’s way of defining its own membership, practised over 3,500 years, is illegal.”

The Telegraph writer quoted a judge in the case who said the decision “leads to such extraordinary results, and produces such manifest discrimination against Jewish schools in comparison with other faith schools, that one cannot help feeling that something has gone wrong”.

Mr Moore continued: “This is an acute problem for Jews, who are at great pains to maintain their own rules while respecting the law of the land.”

He added: “I would argue that the judgment goes wider still.

“It is part of a current idea of equality and of human rights which, in the name of freedom, is beginning to look like tyranny.”

Mr Moore wrote: “When you set out general principles about equal treatment for all, regardless of race, religion, sex, age etc, people will tend to agree with them. It is a liberal principle that all are equal before the law, and a Christian principle that all are equal in the sight of God.

“But when you frame endless laws according to these universal principles, you run into difficulties.”

He added: “It may be “discriminatory” for a Jewish/Catholic/Muslim school to prefer to employ Jewish/Catholic/Muslim teachers, but isn’t it also reasonable?

“Isn’t it fair and natural that a religious school should be free to prefer to admit children from the relevant faith, in order to maintain the ethos which is so important to its success as a school? By what morality are such things wrong?

“The human rights culture which now dominates our law believes in its own morality.”

He said: “There is now a strong secularist agenda working its way through our public authorities.”

Concluding, Mr Moore wrote: “if you really do see religion as the problem in society, you are pulling out the threads which have until now held our culture together”.

He said: “You are undermining the largest single motive for providing schooling, nursing, child care and help for the old and poor.”

Following the ruling last week, the president of one Jewish organisation which intervened in the case expressed his disappointment that JFS and other schools will now have to apply a “non-Jewish definition of who is Jewish”.

Barrister Neil Addison of the Thomas More Legal Centre called the ruling a “profoundly dangerous extension of state power” and a “most insidious form of totalitarianism”.

He said: “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.”

He added: “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’?”

Related Resources