Multiculturalism, Freedom of Religion, Equality, and the British Constitution: The JFS Case Considered
International Journal of Constitutional Law (I-CON), 2011
38 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2010
Date Written: November 2010
The JFS case involved a challenge by E, by way of judicial review, of the decision of a school in London, JFS (formerly the Jews’ Free School), to refuse to admit his son, M, to the school. JFS is a Jewish faith school. It is regarded as an excellent school academically, and is very popular among the Jewish community in London. It is consistently over-subscribed. It adopted as its over-subscription policy giving a preference in admission to those children recognized as Jewish by the Office of the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregation of the Commonwealth (‘the OCR’). The OCR is recognized as, effectively, the head of the Orthodox branch of Judaism in Britain. Operating on an Orthodox interpretation of Jewish law ('halacha'), the OCR only recognizes a person as Jewish if that person is descended in the matrilineal line from a woman whom the OCR would recognize as Jewish, or that person has undertaken a course of conversion recognized by the Orthodox authorities. Applying this interpretation, M was not Jewish, according to the OCR. This admissions policy was held to constitute unlawful discrimination against M on the grounds of his ethnic origin.
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