Riazat Butt, religious affairs correspondent, The Guardian, London
Posted: August 30 2008
Leading academics, authors and scientists are launching a campaign to stop state-funded faith schools from discriminating against students and teachers on the grounds of religion.
From Monday, such schools will be allowed to include faith as a selection criterion for teaching and non-teaching posts, reserving more places for people from the same religious background.
In some schools this will expand to include the headteacher while in others this would apply to non-teaching jobs, such as classroom assistants and cooks.
The new rules coincide with the launch of Accord, a coalition of Hindu, Christian and Humanist organisations, which claims that they will further restrict the employment rights of staff in state-funded faith schools and that discrimination of this kind is illegal in other state schools.
Accord's supporters also include the scientist professor Colin Blakemore, the former education secretary Tessa Blackstone, novelist Philip Pullman and the philosopher AC Grayling.
Prominent Jewish figures are angry that two rabbis from progressive movements, David Goldberg, emeritus rabbi of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in
"I am very happy for every religion to maintain its identity while still fully participating in the civic life of the country; but I am not persuaded that faith schools are the best way to heal our fractured society."
Philanthropist Benjamin Perl, who has founded and provided funding for at least 20 of the 39 Jewish state schools in
In 2006 faith schools were handed new powers to discriminate when Lord Adonis, the schools minister, brought forward an amendment to the education bill allowing them to favour members of the same religion when choosing support staff. Shortly afterwards the education secretary, Alan Johnson, said he would no longer try to force faith schools to accept up to a quarter of their pupils from other faiths or with no religion. The climbdown infuriated those who claim single faith schools fuel ethnic, religious and social segregation.
Earlier this year the National Union of Teachers unveiled plans to rival faith schools, proposing that all schools should become practising multi-faith institutions. Headteachers would bring in imams, rabbis and priests to instruct religious pupils as part of the curriculum in an attempt to satisfy parental demand for religion in schools.
View Source article: The Guardian, London