Telegraph and Daily Mail jump off the deep end over Jennie Cain case

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.”

3 Responses

  1. The source of this canard was a right wing non-Anglican “Christian Voice” type lobby group, who spun the story to leave out the full context, and whose output was swallowed hook line and sinker by the Telegraph, who then respun the story to 3 bishops who happened to be in London for General Synod, who were in a hurry enough to believe the story as the Telegraph had spun it, and hadn’t staff there to check the facts. Good example of what Neil Davies calls “Flat Earth News.”

  2. Yes, I see that Mike Judge of the Christian Institute itself was quoted in the second Telegraph story, on Friday.

    Alarmingly, this matter was also raised in Parliament on Thursday:

    To quote from Hansard:
    Mr. Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): I am sure that the Leader of the House will agree with this point because she considers herself a champion of fairness and equality. May we have a debate in Government time on systematic and institutional discrimination against Christians? We saw last week the case of Mrs. Petrie who was suspended by North Somerset primary care trust and reinstated only after a media furore. This week, anti-Christian zealots in Devon are on the verge of suspending a lady who works in a school for defending her Christian beliefs and those of her daughter. Does fairness and equality apply only to people who are non-Christians in this country?

    Ms Harman: Fairness and equality should apply to everyone, and I suggest that the hon. Gentleman seek a Westminster Hall debate on the issues he raises.

    Mr Jackson also misrepresents, it seems to me, the case of Ms Petrie. Her suspension was routine following complaints and a prior reprimand for inappropriate approaches to patients. The Health Trust has decided not to proceed further but has re-affirmed its position that the need for pastoral and spiritual care is to be raised first by the patient or by someone, such as a chaplain, designated by the Trust to do so. It isn’t for nurses visiting vulnerable patients’ homes to undertake religious approaches.

  3. Not clever journalism on some counts including Ekklesia who quoted ‘Meanwhile, a Christian from Exeter comments: “As a Christian, I would be very upset if my child had told another to go to hell.”‘ No account comes close to claiming this happened.

    My concerns remain: I take no offence to anyone of any faith asking if I wish to be prayed for – I would be appreciative but decline; if Jennie Cain’s email was private in the sense that it was only meant for close friends and it only asked for prayer how can it constitute professional misconduct – who’s opinions, concerns, etc. are safe? (this goes beyond religious concerns)

    These are the issues I raised in my blog http://electrictelegraph.wordpress.com/2009/02/13/persecution-of-christians; I agree that a lot of the other stuff is disputable.

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