A leading Jewish barrister has warned the Charedi community that any legal challenge to Ofsted's requirement for schools to teach respect for LGBT orientation in schools is “very likely to lose”.
Speaking at the annual dinner of the United Synagogue burial society on Thursday night, Sam Grodzinski QC talked about the question of “whether Ofsted is entitled to require schools to teach respect for non-heterosexual orientation”, which he called “a very tricky subject.”
Mr Grodzinski represented the Adath Yisrael Burial Society (AYBS), in its successful challenge of the "cab rank rule" burial policy of Mary Hassell, the senior coroner for Inner North London.
The High Court deemed it "unlawful" for her office to not priotise any death on the grounds of the religious needs of the deceased of their family.
But addressing the Charedi community's standoff with Ofsted, the barrister told the audience: “On the current state of the law… is that any legal challenge to that requirement is very likely to lose.”
He added: "My concern is that if the community ends up taking this fight through the courts, and tries to argue that there is no obligation to teach anything about respect for those who have a different orientation, they will lose, and they will lose in a way that makes the issue more problematic than it is today.”
Mr Grodzinski described how, in the burial case, the High Court had ruled that “equality doesn’t entail treating everyone the same regardless of their need".
“Where there is a genuine need, driven by the obligations of religion... it is not unlawful favouritism, as the coroner had said, but is instead exactly what the law requires to respect the needs of the minority community,” he said.
But Mr Grodzinski said a challenge to Ofsted on an issue “of importance to the community, in particular the Charedi community”, could lead to a different result.
“The legislation is completely clear”, he said.
"It says that all schools have to ensure that as part of their curriculum, pupils are taught principles which encourage respect for others, having particular regard to what the law calls ‘the protected characteristics listen in detail in the equality act 2010.’
"One of the protected characteristics is religion. Another is sexual orientation."
Mr Grodzinski cited “the JFS case” as an example of how “legal battles that start off with the best of intentions, can sometimes have adverse consequences that nobody had perceived at the start”.
In 2009, Europe's largest Jewish school was held to have discriminated against pupils by denying entry to people whom they defined as belonging to a different religion.
The QC said, that rather than “starting a fight in the courts that we are very, very likely to lose”, any opposition to Ofsted's position “if it should be done, should be done by seeking a change in the legislation through lobbying, if possible through political process.”
He warned: “If a court case is launched, moreover, we risk being accused of relying on the law of the land when it helps us, as in the coroner’s case, and not when it doesn’t, as in this case.
“And in today’s climate of antisemitism, I am sure that is something we would all wish to avoid.”