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Ethnicity vs. religion - JFS loses admissions battle

17 December 2009

The Supreme Court has found that the Jewish Free School racially discriminated against an applicant when it refused a place to a pupil who it did not consider to be ethnically Jewish. The school refused the boy admission even though he regularly attended a synagogue because the boy's mother had become Jewish by conversion with a Progressive synagogue. The Office of the Chief Rabbi (OCR) rules stipulate that only conversions with an Orthodox synagogue are recognised.

The court found that the school's admissions policy in this way amounted to direct race discrimination under the 1976 Race Relations Act and that the OCR rules implied a reference to ethnic origin prohibited under the Act.

This ruling clearly spells the end for admissions policies based on OCR criteria. However, it also has the potential to impact on aspects of admissions policies in other faith schools. What remains to be seen is whether this judgment will have any application outside of faiths where there is close interrelationship between faith and ethnicity such as is found in Judaism.

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Mark Blois

Mark Blois

Partner and Head of Education

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