Campaign Response for Religious Exemptions and Equality Law

Thank you for contacting me about the National Secular Society's report 'Faith-Shaped Holes'.

I found the report interesting to read and have noted its recommendations, which I have passed on to my colleagues in the Equalities Office. I believe the existing protections in relation to faith schools, caste discrimination and recruitment are sufficient.

All children deserve the best education wherever they live and whatever their background, and every family in Hastings and Rye should be able to access a good school. I believe that a diverse school system gives families greater choice and raises standards for pupils. Faith schools have a strong record of high pupil attainment and are often very popular with parents. I can assure you that all schools are expected to fulfil their legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010 to promote community cohesion and to teach a broad and balanced curriculum. Indeed, faith schools, as with all other schools, are expected to be inclusive and play an active role in their communities, as well as promote integration and an understanding of different faiths and communities.

You may be aware that the Government recently ran a consultation on how best to ensure that appropriate and proportionate legal protection exists for victims of caste discrimination. This considered different ways of protecting people from caste discrimination, including implementing a duty under the Equality Act 2010. Having given careful and detailed consideration to the findings of the consultation, my colleagues in the Equalities Office concluded that the best way to provide the necessary protection against unlawful discrimination because of caste is by relying on emerging case-law as developed by courts and tribunals. It was felt that this is a more proportionate approach given the extremely low numbers of cases involved and the clearly controversial nature of introducing “caste”, as a self-standing element, into British domestic law.

Companies based in the United Kingdom and which recruit here are subject to British laws, including those which protect people from discrimination because of religion or any other protected characteristic. It is unacceptable for companies to discriminate in recruitment if there is no genuine occupational requirement for a position to be filled by someone of a certain religion.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.