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UK Supreme Court finds Jewish school admission policy discriminatory

[JURIST] The British Supreme Court [official website] ruled [judgment, PDF; press summary, PDF] Wednesday that a Jewish school discriminated against a boy by denying him admission because he was not "ethnically Jewish." The London secondary school, JFS [school website], denied admission to the boy, known as M, because his mother is Jewish by conversion, not by birth. The case turned on whether the school's policy was based on religion, which would be permissible, or based on race or ethnicity, which would be considered discriminatory. The five justices in the majority found the policy to be direct discrimination:

one thing is clear about the matrilineal test; it is a test of ethnic origin. By definition, discrimination that is based upon that test is discrimination on racial grounds under the Act.

Two justices found indirect discrimination, and two justices dissented. The Equality and Human Rights Commission [advocacy website], which supported M, welcomed the ruling [press release] as "an important verdict."

Wednesday's ruling is among the most controversial since the UK Supreme Court opened [JURIST report] in October. The new Supreme Court, created by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 [text], replaced the judicial panel of the House of Lords [official website] as Britain's highest tribunal, with 12 Law Lords [official backgrounder] from the House of Lords serving as the first Supreme Court justices. The Supreme Court was created to emphasize the split between the judicial and legislative branches of government.

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