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Religious Discrimination Opposed in School Admissions Test Case

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has announced that it is intervening in the potentially landmark court case against the JFS (formally the Jewish Free School) for alleged racial discrimination which begins today.

The case is being brought by parents whose child was denied a place at the school under admissions criteria favouring ethnically Jewish children.

The intervention by the BHA alleges that the admission policy of JFS is not only unlawful under the Race Relations Act but also the Human Rights Act (HRA) on the grounds that the HRA has made such religious discrimination in the provision of state education illegal. The European Convention of Human Rights prohibits discrimination on the grounds of status (whether race or religion) in access to state funded education, unless it is a proportionate means of meeting a legitimate aim.

Andrew Copson, BHA Director of Education and Public Affairs said, ‘Laws designed to protect the exclusive admissions policies of state-funded religious schools do not override the Human Rights Act and there is no evidence that school ethos is damaged by more inclusive admissions policies.

‘An overwhelming majority of people believe that our state-funded schools should be open to all children, regardless of their or their parents’ religious or non-religious beliefs. In shared schools, children of different backgrounds can learn with and from each other, helping to increase mutual understanding in our diverse society.

‘The projected expansion of state-funded religious schools makes the necessity for seeking an end to discrimination in school admissions all the more pressing.’

If the judge finds that the JFS admissions criteria are discriminatory on the grounds claimed by the BHA, it will call into question the policies followed by many of the thousands of state schools in Britain with a religious character (‘faith schools’).

The hearing is expected to continue until 6 March.

For more information please contact the British Humanist Association on 020 7079 3584 or 07855 380 633.

Notes to Editors:

The British Humanist Association (BHA) is the national charity representing and supporting the non-religious and campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief. It is the largest organisation in the UK working for a secular state.

Article 2 Protocol 1 of the ECHR provides:

‘No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.’

Article 14 of the ECHR provides:

‘The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in [the] Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.’

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