If you read the British daily newspapers or their websites you may have seen this: “Primary school receptionist ‘facing sack’ after daughter talks about Jesus to classmate” (Daily Telegraph, Thursday), “Christian school receptionist row: More bishops speak out in support of Jennie Cain” (Daily Telegraph, Friday). The Daily Mail also picked up the story on Friday. But according to sources closer to the story they’ve got it wrong and have been misled.
According to the Telegraph, Jennie Cain’s daughter, Jasmine, “was reprimanded for the way she talked about God and Heaven to a friend in her class” and now Ms Cain is “off work” from her job as a school receptionist at Landscore Primary School in Crediton, Devon, and “under investigation for alleged professional misconduct after she sent a private email to 10 friends asking for prayer.”
Now, the Telegraph says, “Senior figures” in the Church of England are blaming the incident on “misguided liberal thinking and a politically correct agenda by secularists.”
By contrast, the local newspaper, the Express & Echo, reports that the school head, Gary Read, has overwhelming public support, and that the national daily newspapers have been misled by Christian campaigners who misrepresented the facts. “Christians and a local Religious Education teacher are among those who have spoken out, saying that the school has a fine record of respecting different beliefs and values, and of trying to be decent and fair in its treatment of pupils.”
A philosopher, Stephen Law, is quoted by Ekklesia, a think-tank on religious affairs, as saying that the original Telegraph story “omits one crucial detail – that the schools objection was not to a child talking to another about God and Jesus, but to one child scaring another to tears with threats of eternal damnation – thereby putting a very different spin on the story.” Law is editor of the Royal Institute of Philosophy journal, Think, and his blog comment is at this link.
A parent at the school is quoted by the Express & Echo as saying “I would be horrified if my daughter had been told this and the teacher had not stepped in, and I am thankful she attends a school where such scare- mongering is not allowed to pass as acceptable behaviour.”
This whole affair seems to be a horrible fiction got up by Christian campaigners after a school correctly reprimanded a schoolchild for frightening another. Ekklesia reports that the receptionist has not been suspendedor disciplined, “but she did not go into school yesterday after the publicity.”