Receptionist takes school to court over prayer row (from

Receptionist takes school
to court over prayer row

Friday, 21 August 2009

A primary school receptionist from Devon is taking legal action against her employers after they disciplined her for asking friends to pray about the school’s treatment of her daughter. 

Archive: a BBC news report (Feb 09)

Lawyers representing Jennie Cain have lodged papers with Exeter employment tribunal claiming that she has suffered religious discrimination, harassment and victimisation.

The claim is brought against the governing body of Landscore Primary School and the school’s head teacher Mr Gary Read. A claim is also brought against Devon County Council for aiding the discrimination.

Mrs Cain’s daughter Jasmine was attending the school. In January this year, then aged five, she was reprimanded by her class teacher for talking about her Christian faith to another child.

The school has said the five-year-old had frightened another child by talking about hell.

It has since come to light that the conversation between the children was never witnessed by any adult and took place around October time the previous year.

On hearing that her daughter had been reprimanded for expressing her faith, Mrs Cain sent a private email to church friends and family asking them to pray about the incident.

The email was sent from Mrs Cain’s home computer, outside work time, using her personal email account.

But the email ended up in the hands of head teacher Gary Read who launched an investigation against Mrs Cain for professional misconduct.

A panel of school governors decided to discipline Mrs Cain by issuing her a final written warning. This was reduced to a written warning on appeal.

However, the legal papers lodged with the Employment Tribunal claim that the decision to discipline Mrs Cain is part of ongoing hostility to her Christian faith by her employers.

The legal papers also claim that the governors sitting on the appeal panel had wanted to remove the warning from Mrs Cain’s record completely but were blocked from doing so by staff from Devon County Council’s Human Resources Department.

It is further claimed that school’s disciplinary procedure was not properly followed.

Mrs Cain was told to stay away from work for four months. The legal papers claim that, upon her return to work, Mrs Cain has continued to suffer religious discrimination and harassment. She also suffered victimisation on account of her taking legal action.

The Christian Institute’s Mike Judge said: “We support Jennie’s decision to take legal action.

“Her case is important because it highlights a wider problem. I am sad to say that a number of Christians, particularly those who work in the public sector, have been disciplined for expressing their faith.

“If Jennie was from a different religious background I believe her employers would have handled her situation differently.”




Christian demoted over civil partnership beliefs

A second Christian registrar has been disciplined and threatened with dismissal by Islington Council over the issue of civil partnerships, it has emerged.

In a letter to members of the House of Lords, Theresa Davies tells of a “militant political-sexual libertarian lobby” in operation at the council. Miss Davies was given the ultimatum of being demoted to an entry-level post or being dismissed from the Council because her Christian beliefs prevented her from registering same-sex civil partnerships. Her story echoes that of friend and colleague Lillian Ladele, another Christian registrar who was bullied and threatened with the sack by the same council after she asked to be exempted from registering same-sex unions. An Employment Tribunal upheld Miss Ladele’s claim of religious discrimination last year, but the ruling was overturned at an Employment Appeals Tribunal and Miss Ladele is now seeking a further appeal. Like Miss Ladele, Miss Davies had worked for the Council for many years before finding herself in difficulty over the issue of civil partnerships when they were introduced in 2005. She told her employers at the Council that her beliefs would prevent her from registering such unions. Miss Davies says the pressure she was under while they considered her position forced her to take four months’ leave for stress. When she returned to work she was given the option of leaving her job or accepting a receptionist position. She said: “I was shocked because I knew that if they had wanted to they could have accommodated me. “I know of other councils that have allowed Christian registrars to carry on by ensuring that colleagues are given civil partnerships – but I was told this was not Islington’s policy. “I was very disappointed, very saddened and angry. It was humiliating to be back on reception, where I had started.” Although Miss Davies was given some marriages to register after Miss Ladele’s initial tribunal win, this stopped again when the Council won its tribunal appeal in December 2008. In January this year Islington Council produced a new Sexual Orientation Equalities Scheme, dubbed a ‘gay rights’ charter, which it said would keep the Council “at the forefront of ensuring equal treatment for gay people”. “We were overjoyed to win the landmark Registrar case, and we are making it crystal clear that we expect all council employees to provide services to all people, regardless of who they are,” a councillor said. Revd Sharon Ferguson, chief executive of Britain’s Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, compared Miss Davies’s views to those of a white supremacist. She said: “It is fine for people to hold opinions but you can’t use views to discriminate against other people. “For example, the BNP, we all know they support white supremacy, they can believe what they like but they cannot be allowed to act on it.” Speaking this weekend, Miss Davies said: “Britain is supposed to be a nation that respects freedom of conscience. But my conscience is not being respected. If Islington Council believes in dignity for all, why can’t my beliefs be accommodated and why is my dignity not being respected? “I have nothing against homosexuals. My colleagues in the office will tell you that – and the openly gay ones have no problem with me. All I am asking is that the system can be arranged so I do not have to perform civil partnerships.” Miss Davies is now launching a grievance procedure against the Council with the backing of the Christian Legal Centre.