Religious Discrimination in Teaching: The Government’s Anomalous Position

This is a paper that I delivered at a conference on Law, Human Rights and Religion at Nottingham Trent University Law School in December 2016.  Click here for the pdf text.

This is the abstract:

The School Standards and Framework Act 1998 permits religious voluntary aided schools to apply religious tests to the employment, remuneration, promotion and dismissal of teachers, by contrast with the general prohibition of such discrimination.

When the UK implemented the EU’s framework directive on equality in employment in its Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 it explicitly exempted these School Standards and Framework Act provisions, an exemption repeated in the Equality Act 2010 despite serious reservations by the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

In April 2010 the British Humanist Association formally complained to the European Commission that the UK had failed adequately to transpose the Directive and the EC began an investigation.  It dragged on for five years, being prematurely closed in 2014 but reopened after BHA protests.  Finally the complaint was rejected in September 2015, with the Commission accepting the UK Government’s contention that in any proceedings the court would read the law as permitting discrimination only where it would qualify under the Directive’s “genuine occupational requirement” provision, making the exemption effectively meaningless.

In this paper I outline the above sequence of events, explore the highly anomalous position in which it leaves the law and touch on the possible implications of Brexit.