A Christian teacher has been sacked from her job after offering to pray for a sick pupil during a home tutoring visit.
Olive Jones said she was made to feel like a criminal for sharing her faith and claims that this is yet another example of Christians being persecuted because of ‘political correctness’.
The Christian Legal Centre, which is backing Mrs Jones’ case, blame the “heavy-handed so-called equalities agenda that discriminates against Christians”.
The 54-year-old mother of two, who taught maths to children too ill to attend school, said she mentioned prayer during a tutoring session with one of her pupils.
But just hours later she was hauled before her managers for questioning.
She said her bosses had decided her comments about faith could be seen as “bullying” and dismissed her from her role at Oak Hill Short Stay School and Tuition Service in Somerset.
Mrs Jones, a teacher with 20 years experience, now fears she may never work again.
During one session with the pupil, the child said she did not feel well enough for the lesson so she stayed in one of the bedrooms while Mrs Jones chatted with the girl’s mother.
Mrs Jones raised the topic of her faith, saying she believed God had saved her life after an ordeal as a teenager.
Unbeknown to Mrs Jones the girl’s mother lodged a complaint, but the authorities did not inform Mrs Jones of any criticism.
It was not until after her next visit when she once again referred to her belief in God that she was brought before her bosses for questioning and dismissed from her post.
Since Mrs Jones worked only twelve hours a week and had no formal contract, her job at the school ended with immediate effect.
During this last session Mrs Jones said she had told the pupil and the pupil’s mother that there were people praying for them, and then she asked the child if she could pray for her.
She said the girl looked at her mother, who said “We come from a family who do not believe”, and so Mrs Jones did not pray.
Mrs Jones said: “I asked the mother if she wanted me to cancel the next lesson as her daughter had not been feeling up to maths, but she said no.”
Mrs Jones said she left the lesson on good terms but within hours she was summoned to see the head of the school who told her that sharing her faith with a child could be considered as bullying and so she was consequently sacked from her job.
She said she was “devastated” by the decision to sack her and added that it was “completely disproportionate”.
“If I had done something criminal, I believe the reaction would have been the same. It is like a black mark against my name and character when it comes to getting a reference for another job, just because I shared my testimony – as if I committed a criminal act,” she said.
“I’m not out to get anyone, I am angry at their interpretation of freedom of speech. I am amazed that a country with such a strong Christian tradition has become a country where it is hard to speak about your faith”, Mrs Jones added.
“I am not angry with my bosses, as they are trying to interpret new equality and diversity policies,” she said. “But I am angry with the politically-correct system and about the fact that you can’t mention anything to do with faith to people who might find it of use”.
Mrs Jones, who attends her local Church of England church, said: “My main concern is the interpretation of the policies concerned, which seem very ambiguous.
“It is as if my freedom of speech is being restricted. I feel I am being persecuted for speaking about my faith in a country that is supposed to be Christian.
“I feel if I had spoken about almost any other topic I would have been fine but Christianity is seen as a no-go area. It felt as if I was being treated as a criminal. It is like a bad dream that had come true,” she said.
Critics say the case echoes that of nurse, Caroline Petrie, who was suspended last December for offering to pray for a patient.
Mrs Petrie, who coincidentally lives near Mrs Jones and has been friends for some years, was later reinstated after a national outcry.
Andrea Williams, Director of the Christian Legal Centre, commented: “The story of Olive Jones is sadly becoming all too familiar in this country. It is the result of a heavy-handed so-called equalities agenda that discriminates against Christians and seeks to eliminate Christian expression from the public square.
“Olive Jones had compassion for her pupil and finds herself without a job because she expressed the hope that comes with faith. It is time for a common sense approach to be restored in all these matters.”
Nick Yates, a spokesman for North Somerset Council, said: “Olive Jones has worked as a supply teacher, working with the North Somerset Tuition service. A complaint has been made by a parent regarding Olive. This complaint is being investigated.
“To complete the investigation we need to speak to Olive and we have offered her a number of dates so this can happen. At the moment we are waiting for her to let us know which date is convenient for her.”