Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Jewish Schools Employing Religious Standards in Admitting Students

Rick talks about the UK case holding that a Jewish school could not apply Orthodox rabbinical standards as to who is Jew in its admissions policies, quoting Charles Moore's critical commentary of the decision.

While I share some hesitation in treating actions like this as race discrimination, I think one needs to do more than Moore does to explain why it is important to allow religious schools to be "free to prefer to admit children from the relevant faith."  More clearly sees no difference between a religious school's preference in hiring teachers of its faith and admitting students of its faith.  Although neither issue strikes me as crystal clear, my inclination is to think the answers to those two questions are not necessarily the same. 

More suggests a student preference is necessary "to maintain the ethos which is so important to its success as a school."  It seems to me hard to make that argument on these facts.  This case involved a child who was not considered Jewish because his mother converted to Judaism after his birth.  Except in that technical sense, the child was Jewish in the sense of being raised in a Jewish home by parents who clearly wanted him educated into their faith.  It is hard to see how keeping such a child out of the school is necessary to maintain the school's "ethos."

Although Rick didn't quote this part of Moore's piece, I was also bothered by Moore's treatment of the difficulty to deciding when the law should interfere with religious decisions.  For Moore the answer is clearly no in this case, but clearly yes, when the issue is "resist[ing] Islamist attempts to advance the cause of sharia as a way of creating a parallel legal order (oppressive of women) in this country."  Why is it so clear that these should be treated differently?  Why are the school children deprived of a particular education less oppressed than women under sharia?  Maybe there is a good difference, but demontrating that requires more than a mere assertion.



Stabile, Susan | Permalink

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