Primary school receptionist Jennie Cain, from Crediton, is facing a governors' investigation
A HEADTEACHER has defended his actions after a religious row erupted at a Devon school where a five-year- old girl told a classmate she would "go to hell" if she did not believe in God.
The youngster, a pupil at Landscore Primary School, Threshers, in Crediton, complained to her mother after she was told off for the comment.
Her mum, Jennie Cain, who works as a receptionist at the school, is under investigation for professional misconduct after she sent a private email to friends about the matter.
Mrs Cain, of Queen Elizabeth Drive, Crediton, initially complained to Jasmine's teacher.
Her daughter had come home in tears and said she had been told off for "talking about Jesus".
The 38-year-old mother was then called into headteacher Gary Read's office about the matter.
The email, written after this meeting, which asked friends to pray for her and her daughter, fell into the hands of Mr Read.
It allegedly contained claims against the school and its staff.
Mr Read defended the school's treatment of the matter and said they encouraged all children to "think independently", but would not condone one child "frightening" another.
He said: "We have 271 children in our school from a diversity of backgrounds.
"We encourage all our children to think independently and discuss their beliefs with their teachers and classmates when it is appropriate to do so.
"What we do not condone is one child frightening a six-year-old with the prospect of 'going to hell' if she does not believe in God.
"We conveyed to her mother, in a perfectly respectful manner, that we do not expect it to happen again."
Although Mrs Cain, who also has a son, has not been suspended, an investigation by the governors of the school is being held over the matter.
Mrs Cain, who has worked part-time at the school for two-and-a-half years, said her and her children's beliefs had not been respected.
"My daughter said, 'My teacher told me I couldn't talk about Jesus' — I couldn't believe what I was hearing," she said.
"She said she was taken aside in the classroom and told she couldn't say that. I was so shocked, I didn't know what to do."
Mrs Cain added: "I feel my beliefs are so central to who I am, are such a part of my children's life.
"I do feel our beliefs haven't been respected and I don't feel I have been treated fairly."
The mum has described herself as a "quiet Christian" who would never force her beliefs on others. Religious groups have condemned the school's action.
Mrs Cain's case is being supported by the Christian Institute, which says the case is an example of a Christian being persecuted by society.
Mike Judge, from the Christian Institute, said: "It is really getting to a point where it has to stop. I think the Government has got to start looking at its legislation.
"Christians are in the firing line, not other minority groups."
David Hutchings, spokesman for children and young people's services at Devon County Council, declined to comment on the current investigation but said: "The study and diversity of world religions is an integral part of curriculum."
Last week, nurse Caroline Petrie, from Weston- super-Mare, was told that she could go back to work, having been suspended for two months after offering to pray for a patient.