An education bill currently before the British parliament would, inter alia, extend curriculum regulations that now only apply to elementary-school students to ḥaredi schools for children ages thirteen and older. At the same time, the British government is pressuring ḥaredi schools for younger children to teach about tolerance of homosexuals. Joe Mintz argues that even Jews who wish ḥaredi schools to offer more robust secular educations should be wary of the potential threat to religious freedom:
Surely this is a slam dunk, and every child in England must be educated to a “minimum” standard in mathematic and English and be prepared for life in “modern Britain”? . . . What happened to a commitment to religious freedom in the actions of the government in bringing this bill, or the mainstream Jewish community in condemning ḥaredi Jews for opposing it? Are we really that sure the public-interest arguments outweigh parental religious freedom?
I wonder if the antipathy towards the ḥaredi position by the [Anglo-]Jewish community is seriously misplaced. It seems to me to have unfortunate echoes of the concerns raised by the established community in the late 19th and early 20th century, when newly arrived Jews from Eastern Europe were looked down as being not just far too religious but also uncouth, uncultured, and far too likely to make non-Jews aware of how strange and esoteric, how un-English, Judaism and traditional Jewish life actually was.
We could also recognize that just because how the government sees fit to balance religious freedom and majority concerns on this issue suits the mainstream Jewish community, that might not always be the case. . . . If we think that on brit milah as well as a host of other potential issues the government could not one day decide that our religious freedom is trumped by other majority concerns, we delude ourselves. In reality, this should be our fight too.