Chief Rabbi says religious parents should be free to raise their children according to their beliefs


The Chief Rabbi has criticised humanists and secularists for their repeated campaigns against faith schools, saying that they are "in effect campaigning against my freedom to raise my children in accordance with the tenets of my faith".

In a speech to an interfaith conference, Ephraim Mirvis said humanists were becoming "ever more combative" towards faith communities and accused them of trying to "prevent" the freedom of Jews and "impose" their own beliefs on society. 

"If it is freedom you seek, please do not campaign against our freedom to practice our faith," he said.

"If you are calling for tolerance, please do not stoop to intolerance of faith communities and religious practice.

"If you wish to prevent religion from imposing its values on our society, please don't do just that, by seeking to impose Humanism on our society."

Last year, the National Secular Society launched a campaign backed by historian Dan Snow and Lord Cashman calling for an end to state-funded faith schools. 

Earlier this year, Humanists UK published an open letter in The Times, also signed by the National Secular Society, Richard Dawkins and Stephen Fry, challenging plans for a new wave of voluntary aided (VA) faith schools across England.

The letter claimed that the plans "fundamentally threatens social cohesion" and that it was "patently unfair" that families from "outside particular religious communities" were placed "at the back of the queue for places".

The NSS has in the past sought government intervention to stop faith schools teaching about homosexuality according to their religious beliefs. 

In its recent report, Unsafe Sex Education: the risk of letting religious schools teach within the tenets of their faith, the NSS claimed that "allowing faith schools leeway to teach about sex and relationships in accordance with their faith will undermine plans to ensure that every child has access to age appropriate Sex and Relationships Education, taught in a consistent way". 

The criticism from the Chief Rabbi comes amid anger in the Jewish community over the downgrading of a Jewish school in Manchester not because of failings in educational attainment but because of concerns over gender segregation. 

The King David High School, which had been rated "outstanding" in 2015, was downgraded to "inadequate" after inspectors determined that the separation of boys and girls amounted to discrimination. 

Inspectors accused the school of "unlawful segregation on the grounds of faith and belief and sex".