The Jewish Free School (JFS), a very successful secondary school in Brent, is run along Orthodox Jewish lines. A dispute arose about the admission of a boy known as M. M's mother became Jewish by conversion, but only after giving birth to M. According to Orthodox rules (see that chapter of Deuteronomy), Jewishness passes through the female line. M, therefore, was not Jewish, and so did not have the right of admission to the JFS.
The Supreme Court, however, decided by a majority of five to four that the decision to exclude M was in contravention of section one of the Race Relations Act. He was excluded on racial grounds, it held.
The court is effectively saying that a religion's way of defining its own membership, practised over 3,500 years, is illegal. This is an acute problem for Jews, who are at great pains to maintain their own rules while respecting the law of the land. It will also be used by anti-Jewish groups, which are growing in strength, to bolster their argument that Judaism is racist and that the state of Israel is the equivalent of apartheid South Africa. So the Race Relations Act, set up to help minorities, ends up punishing them.
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.
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