A school was right to scold a five year old girl who expressed her beliefs on heaven and hell because children must not be allowed to present faith as fact, a head teacher has said.
Campaigners say the situation demonstrates the imposition of secularism in education in the name of ‘diversity’.
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Gary Read is the head teacher at Landscore Primary School. He instigated an investigation against Christian receptionist at the school, Jennie Cain, after she sent church friends a private email asking them to pray for a situation involving her daughter Jasmine.
Jasmine, who is five years old, was speaking with her friend about God and heaven when an older child asked her how a person could go to hell.
When Jasmine answered ‘by not believing in Jesus’ she was told off by her teacher and Mr Read called Mrs Cain into her office to discuss the matter.
“He started talking about my daughter about how he wasn’t happy about her making statements about her faith,” said Mrs Cain.
“At that point I froze, I felt very small and I felt trapped as I was a junior member of staff.”
She added: “If Jasmine had prefixed what she had said with the words ‘I believe’, he’d have been ok with that, and I thought ‘she’s five!'”
Mr Read says Jasmine is entitled to talk about her faith, but that her answer to the older child was “unacceptable”.
Speaking in a television interview, he said: “What we don’t say is ‘this is the truth’, because I think that is unfair to children, and it doesn’t help them in the long run when they have to make their own minds up when they’re adults.”
He accepted that Jasmine is a very young child, adding that this was “why I took the course of saying what you said has upset another child and frightened her, so I don’t want you to say that”.
Mrs Cain says that since the incident her children have been confused about what they can say about their beliefs.
She says they have been asking her: “Mummy, if someone asks us if we are Christian, are we allowed to say?”
Simon Calvert of The Christian Institute said: “A five-year-old simply can’t be expected to nuance everything she says to comply with the demands of political correctness.
“Small children don’t understand post-modern ideas about your truth and my truth – they just say things as they see them.
“It seems education is the latest domain where secularism disguised as ‘equality and diversity’ is causing problems for Christians.”
The case follows news that draft guidelines for teachers have borrowed the same ‘equality and diversity’ wording used to suspend Christian nurse Caroline Petrie after she offered to pray for a patient.
Mrs Petrie has now been invited back to work by the NHS trust that suspended her over allegations that in making the offer she failed to “promote equality and value diversity” – a requirement of the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s code of practice.
However, the General Teaching Council for England (GTC) has now drafted its own guidance for teachers, which includes a similar clause.
The guidance has not yet been finalised, and the GTC is inviting public responses to its draft code in a consultation open until 27 February.
Find out how to respond to the consultation.