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

Professor Wertheimer Responds to Rick

Professor Ellen Wertheimer sends this response to Rick's reaction to her earlier comment on the UK decisio: holding that a Jewish school could not apply Orthodox rabbinical standards as to who is Jew in its admissions policies:

It is certainly possible that the court and the Orthodox community that seems to have set the standards for admission to the school are talking at cross-purposes.  Perhaps the problem is that the governmental entity that supports the schools allowed the use of the Orthodox definition of who is Jewish in the first place.  Under the Orthodox definition, a practicing and confessional Catholic who has one Jewish grandparent is a Jew if that grandparent were his or her mother's mother, while a practicing Jew whose mother's mother converted to Judaism in a Reform ceremony is not a Jew, even though the other three of his or her grandparents are Jewish, and even though both of his or her parents practice that religion.   Of course, I do not question the right of any branch of Judaism to set the standards of who is a Jew in the first place; the problem here, though, is that access to a publicly-funded education in a Jewish school is being limited by one branch of the religion, resulting in the exclusion of members of other branches.

In any event, and be that as it may, this entire discussion seems to underline the wisdom of keeping government and religion apart.  The simplest answer--and one that eliminates any risk of government interference in religion--may be that the government should cease paying for or financially supporting religious schools in the first place.  If the government were not supporting the schools, the problem of government interference in religious standards would not arise, and the parochial schools of Britain could set their own admission criteria without any government oversight.  Of course, the principles of separation of church and state that we follow in this country do not necessarily translate to Britain, which has (in theory) an established religion, but it does not follow that the government of the UK has to pay for parochial education for any of its subjects.


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