Plans for two new state-funded Catholic schools with discriminatory admissions policies have cleared a further hurdle today, after Mr Justice Sales in the High Court dismissed a judicial review of Richmond-upon-Thames council’s decision to approve them. The case had been brought jointly by the British Humanist Association (BHA) and Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (RISC) and the judgement will not be available for about two weeks.
BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘We are disappointed that our case was dismissed and when we have the full judgement we will certainly consider whether to appeal. We still believe – in common with the vast majority of the British public – that it is wrong to set up new state-funded schools that discriminate against children based on their parents’ religion. It is also wrong for religious schools to receive preferential treatment in setting up, over and above inclusive schools.’
RISC spokesman Jeremy Rodell said, ‘Obviously there will be a lot of people in Richmond who will be disappointed with this judgement. Throughout all the debates and exchanges over the past 18 months, no-one has yet given a satisfactory answer to the simple question: “How can it be right to set up a state-funded school that will be able to turn away local children simply because of the religion or belief of their parents?” That remains just as wrong now as it was before.
‘We hope that, one day, we will live in a country where that is as illegal and unacceptable as racial discrimination is today. We brought this challenge to help to bring that day closer and our fight will go on.’
A survey by the Accord Coalition published on Monday found that 73% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that ‘state funded schools should not be allowed to select or discriminate against prospective pupils on religious grounds in their admissions policy’, while only 18% disagreed. Yet more religious schools are on the horizon.
By all means have religion in schools, to respect individuals beliefs and give children an understanding of other faiths and beliefs, but why have religious schools?