Supreme Court decrees what it is to be Jewish
A boy was refused entry to JFS - an Orthodox Jewish secondary school (formerly the Jews' Free School), in Brent, north west London - because he was not a Jew according to the definition set out by the Chief Rabbi. The boy's father is Jewish by birth, but his mother is Jewish by conversion which was conducted under the auspices of the Masorti movement - a progressive synagogue which is not recognised by the Orthodox.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the admissions policy of JFS amounts to race discrimination.
Rabbi Tony Bayfield, head of the movement for Reform Judaism, said that he was delighted that the admissions policy of JFS - 'which actively de-legitimises our converts and our rabbis' - has been confirmed as unlawful and unacceptable by the highest court in the land.
But he added:
“Many of us continue to have serious reservations about the applicability of the Race Relations Act to matters of Jewish status and the involvement of the courts in matters which should be the preserve of the Jewish community. There are considerable potential dangers to going down this road.
“We also have reservations about the applicability of a ‘faith test’ to Judaism. It is an impractical solution, ill suited to a religious culture. However, we will live with a faith or practice test as by far 'the lesser of two evils'."
Danny Rich, chief executive of Liberal Judaism, said: “Liberal Judaism welcomes the decision of the Supreme Court. Liberal Judaism has consistently argued that Jewish identity is primarily about thought and deed rather than biology."
Both the British Humanist Association (BHA) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission also welcomed the ruling.
But what of the Orthodox?
Is it for the courts to tell the Orthodox what it is to be orthodox?
Is it for state judges to decree that ethnicity has to be separated from religion?
Is it really for a secular court which has existed for all of five minutes to overturn 3,500 years of Jewish tradition?
Is this not the time to rise up against Labour's 'equality' legislation which is undermining the very foundations of our liberal democacry?
It is noteworthy that Lord Phillips only recently revealed that he is himself an ‘ethnic’ Jew, and he chose to announce his Jewish ancestry in a London mosque where he welcomed the encroachment of shari'a law in England.
His fellow judge, Lord Brown, was one of the four dissenting judges. His observation is chilling:
"The root question for the Court is simply this: can a Jewish faith school ever give preference to those who are members of the Jewish religion under Jewish law? I would answer: yes it can. To hold the contrary would be to stigmatise Judaism as a directly racially discriminatory religion. I would respectfully disagree with that conclusion. Indeed, I would greatly regret it."
It is really quite astonishing (though perhaps unsurprising) that the first major case upon which the new Supreme Court has ruled has delivered a judgement which is effectively anti-Semitic.