Teacher in prayer row free to return to work

A Christian supply teacher who was sacked for offering to pray for a sick pupil during a home tutoring visit has been told by her employer that she can return to work.

Olive Jones has been offered an opportunity to return to her position after her employer, North Somerset Council, acknowledged that it can be appropriate for a teacher to offer to share their faith with a pupil or their family.

Mrs Jones, from Weston-super-Mare, is said to be “delighted” with the Council’s decision to reinstate her.

She added: “I am hugely relieved. I feel I’ve been vindicated.”

Mrs Jones has also expressed her gratitude for the sympathetic coverage her case has received in the media.

She was supported by Andrea Minichiello Williams from the Christian Legal Centre (CLC).

Mrs Williams welcomed the news saying: “Common sense has prevailed”.

She added: “We are delighted with this outcome and that Olive Jones has been offered the opportunity to return back to her old job.”

The reinstatement follows a meeting last month between Mrs Jones and North Somerset Council, where Mrs Jones was able to defend her action.

A spokeswoman for the Council has subsequently confirmed that it can be appropriate for a teacher to offer to share their faith with a pupil.

However, the spokeswoman warned that “a careful professional judgement needs to be made as to whether this is appropriate and indeed acceptable to the person and family concerned”.

Mrs Jones worked twelve hours a week for the Council’s North Somerset Tuition Service.

The row about her offer of prayer erupted following a home tutoring lesson last November.

The pupil had said she did not feel well enough for the lesson so she stayed in her room 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 during an ordeal as a teenager. Unbeknown to Mrs Jones the girl’s mother lodged a complaint.

Her colleagues at the Council failed to inform Mrs Jones of any criticism.

It was not until after her next visit to the pupil when she again referred to her belief in God that she was brought before her bosses for questioning and dismissed from her post with immediate effect.

Mrs Jones’ case echoes that of Caroline Petrie, the nurse who was suspended from her job after she offered to pray for a patient.

Mrs Petrie was suspended in December 2008 and returned to work in February the following year.

North Somerset Primary Care Trust, Mrs Petrie’s employer, acknowledged that she was acting in her patient’s “best interests”.

A recent Christian Institute report revealed the extent to which Christians in Britain are being marginalised, often by equality and diversity laws.

The report, called Marginalising Christians, catalogues numerous cases of Christians being sidelined by public bodies, popular media, employers and barriers to public funding.

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