Opinion Former Article

British Humanist Association urges government not to permit religions to opt-out from race equality law

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has written to Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC MP, Minister for Equality, and Rt Hon Ed Balls MP, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, seeking a commitment from the Government that it will not permit Jewish organisations and schools to discriminate on grounds of ethnicity.

In June the Court of Appeal found the admissions criteria of the Jewish Free School (JFS) in breach of the Race Relations Act 1976 (RRA), as it was clear that the entry criteria was based not on religious practice or faith but on ethnicity. Following that judgment, it has been reported that some Jewish representatives are seeking to have the Equality Bill amended in order to permit ethnic discrimination by Jewish organisations.

Andrew Copson, BHA Director of Education and Public Affairs, said:

"Legal protections against race discrimination in the UK were hard-fought and are a cornerstone of a civilised society, where people are treated equally and with respect whatever their ethnicity.'

"It would be fundamentally wrong to permit any group to opt-out of these laws, in order that they can discriminate on racial grounds for their own purposes - in this instance to allow only pupils with the 'right' ethnicity admission into a state-maintained school.

"In light of reports that some Jewish groups will be actively lobbying to have the Equality Bill amended so that Jewish schools, and possibly other Jewish organisations, can discriminate on ethnic grounds, we have written to the Government expressing our deep concern, and to seek assurances that the Government will resist any amendments to the Equality Bill that would enable such discrimination."

The BHA intervened in the original case against the JFS in support of the claimants, see www.humanism.org.uk/news/view/306

For further comment or information, contact Andrew Copson on andrew@humanism.org.uk, 020 7079 3584 or 07534 248 596

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