The British Judiciary Defines the Jews

In the continuing series of stories that show Western (especially European) governments to believe it to be their right to define the boundaries of religious practice, David Goldman describes a case in which a British court found that an Orthodox Jewish school could not follow the practice of matrilineal descent in its admissions policies:

JFS is a state school, one among seven thousand religious schools funded by the British government, but the ruling in the case applies equally to private schools. Justice Munby, presiding in the first case, opened his ruling with these words: “The content of a religious faith and the nature of its beliefs, observances, and practices is, for a secular court, a matter of fact to be proved in the usual way by evidence.” What was to be proved, in a practical matter, was whether the Jewish religion might be practiced in the United Kingdom.

Munby ultimately decided for the school, but having determined that a secular court could judge whether a religious organization’s decision was factually in keeping with its stated beliefs, he opened the way for an appeals court to come to a different conclusion about whether the practices suggested by those beliefs are legal:

Even more redolent of Kafka was the subsequent contrary ruling of the appeals court, which overturned Munby’s decision with the brief, bland assertion that Jewish religious law was racist, equating the Jewish doctrine of matrilineal descent with South African apartheid: “If it were otherwise, a person who honestly believed, as the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa until recently believed, that God had made black people inferior and had destined them to live separately from whites, would be able to discriminate openly without breaking the law.”

On first glance, the decision seems to be a consequence of the West’s method of fighting racism through government, rather than cultural, structures, and that has surely been contributing to the sequentially falling barriers protecting individual and collective liberty, but even so, an additional intellectual barricade had to fall, in this case. The distinction now lost was that one cannot convert from being black, but one can convert to Orthodox Judaism. If one believes attendance of an Orthodox Jewish school to be of such merit as to pursue lawsuits for admission, one can follow the steps to become officially Jewish.
Not good enough, says updated British law. Personally, I think a group ought to be free to set policies for its community however it likes, and everybody else ought to be free to lampoon and shun it, but even an entry hatch of conversion is not sufficient inclusiveness for the soldiers of tolerance.

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Dan
Dan
11 years ago

“Personally, I think a group ought to be free to set policies for its community however it likes, and everybody else ought to be free to lampoon and shun it”
An extremely unconstitutional viewpoint… you are becoming more libertarian and voluntaryist every day. Justin, I’m proud of you!

David S
David S
11 years ago

Dan, Dan the Libertarian likes your notion of total hands off but how will you reconcile it to the challenges now being presented to modern democracies from Sharia law? How about the Mormon sects that want to practice poligamy?

OldTimeLefty
11 years ago

Justin needs to be reminded that it was constitutional amendments that were required to break the racist hold that many states had upon people of color. The poor man wants to throw out recent history because it fails to conform to his currently held political views. Quite ingenuous, I’d say.
During my first trip to Atlanta in the 1960’s I observed four bathrooms, divide by gender and race, likewise water fountains. I remember Orville Faubus and George Wallace and Bull Connor. Those people could only be stopped by government action. Ike sent the 101st Airborne to Little Rock to enforce federal regulations. He was a prudent man who did not act rashly or hastily.
Justin might want to consider that government action paved the way for social reforms; it didn’t happen the other way around.
OldTimeLefty

Justin Katz
11 years ago

I’d suggest that OTL needs to review the process of ratification for Constitutional amendments. They are hardly dictatorial impositions of a governing regime on an unwilling population.
But even so, taking a long historical view, we’re only now seeing the truly deleterious effects of our anti-racist methodology (via government), as the principles that we discarded (federalism) and the notions that we introduced (government is the appropriate method of social and cultural manipulation) begin to yield their oppressive fruit.

OldTimeLefty
11 years ago

I fail to see Justin’s point. He throws in a red herring when he talks about the process of ratification, etc. THE POINT IS THAT IT TOOK GOVERNMENT ACTION TO SPUR ON SOCIETAL CHANGE. That it was difficult and involved a tortuous legal process is beside the point which is that government action came first and societal change followed. At least it happened that way in the time-space continuum that most of us occupy.
Secondly, governmental action was necessary because much of the population resisted integration. Does Justin believe that Faubus, Wallace, Connor and their supporters were asking for reform? They had to be forced to accept it as the law of the land; they were dragged kicking and screaming into a governmentally enforced integrated society.
Thirdly, I suspect that Justin is strongly opposed to restrictions of dress and place placed upon women in certain muslim countries. I’d even venture to say that he would like to see governmentally enforced laws outlawing such practices – stop if I’m wrong here, Justin.
OldTimeLefty

Justin Katz
11 years ago

The point is that Constitutional amendment does not require action of “the government,” but of a great and diverse number of people — citizens. By design, that line is difficult to draw in a democracy, but one could make the case that where government structures took the reins in implementing the change demanded by the people is where the death warrant of our freedoms was signed.
As for dress codes, I would most definitely not seek to implement the means for me (via some government structure) to dictate laws against them in a distant country. As I’ve written here before, I believe people have two fundamental civic rights: (1) to work to change their government and society and (2) to leave it. In short, that requires that women be free from arbitrary killing and imprisonment and free to vote, express their views in public fora, and emigrate.

Thomas Schmeling
Thomas Schmeling
11 years ago

Justin says,
The point is that Constitutional amendment does not require action of “the government,”
The above statement is patently false

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Way to skip the meaning of a paragraph in order to offer professorial correction of a clause.

Thomas Schmeling
Thomas Schmeling
11 years ago

Justin,
The point is that Constitutional amendment does not require action of “the government…”
That’s a “clause” and not the “meaning of the paragraph”? I beg to differ. “The point is” suggests that, well, it’s the “point’.
Anyway, semantics aside, I trust you’ll agree that the quoted statement is factually inaccurate.

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