A challenge to the admissions policy of the JFS Comprehensive School in Kenton, North West London, appears to have ended today after Mr Justice Munby ruled the policy to be "entirely lawful and proportionate to the aims and objectives of the school." Sitting in Cardiff, the judge said that Jewish status could only be defined by Jewish law, and was not something to be determined by the secular courts.
The father of an 11-year-old boy whose mother had been converted via Progressive Judaism accused JFS of racial discrimination after the school refused the boy, referred to in the judge's 72-page ruling as "M", a place at the school. The father, "E", challenged the school's admission policy in a four-day hearing at the High Court in London in March. But in an important decision which is likely to have implications for other faith schools, the judge said that JFS's admission's policy was "entirely legitimate", and said that there had been no direct, or indirect, unlawful discimination. He said that a decision against the school could have rendered unlawful the admission arrangements "in a very large number of faith schools of many different faiths and denominations."
Welcoming the judgment, JFS chairman of governors, Russell Kett, said, “The judgment is fully consistent with the facts presented by JFS and its advisers from the outset. The school abhors all forms of discrimination and welcomes the judge’s express finding that JFS does not racially discriminate.”“This ruling is not only welcomed by JFS but will be welcomed by many in the wider Jewish community,” noted Mr Kett.
But Mr Kett added that it had been a hugely expensive case for JFS to have to defend — around £100,000. He said: "While the judgement wholly vindicates the position that the school has taken and justifies the necessary legal costs the school has incurred, it is of great concern and unacceptable that a state school such as JFS has had to find these funds from within its own resources."
Ben Jaffrey, appearing for the United Synagogue, which joined JFS in defending the action, said that there would be "very serious potential consequences" if E won the case, affecting not only JFS but more than 20 other schools and Jewish organisations providing services in the community.
The father has until July 11 to seek leave to appeal.