Jennie Cain, who works at the school, now faces disciplinary action
A PRIMARY school receptionist is facing the sack for seeking church support after her five-year-old daughter was reduced to tears when she was told off for talking about God in class.
Jennie Cain’s daughter Jasmine was scolded by a teacher for discussing Heaven and Hell with a friend, and reportedly came home in a flood of tears.
Mrs Cain, who works at the school, Landscore Primary School in Crediton, now faces disciplinary action after sending a private e-mail to close Christian friends asking them to offer prayers for her daughter and the school.
However, a copy of the e-mail ended up in the hands of the headteacher Gary Read.
Mrs Cain, 38, is now being investigated by governors at Landscore Primary School in Crediton, and could face dismissal. But she still does not know how the headteacher got hold of a copy of the e-mail.
The case has sparked outrage among the Christian community, which fears its members are facing a wave of discrimination in society. Stephen Green, national director of campaign group Christian Voice, said: “It’s discrimination. It seems like open season on Christians. Christians are going to have to wake up to the fact we are in a spiritual war. It’s disgraceful behaviour to treat a five-year-old girl like this. These people will stop at nothing. My initial reaction was, ‘Oh no, not another one’.”
The family says the row started on January 22, when Jasmine told a five-year-old friend: “I believe in God and Jesus and I’m going to Heaven.”
A seven-year-old pupil then asked how a person gets into Hell, to which Jasmine is reported to have said: “By not believing in Jesus”.
When her mother came to pick her up later in the day, Jasmine immediately burst into tears, saying she had been told off by her teacher for talking about God and Heaven and had been warned not to talk about Jesus again. It led to an allegation that a child had been “bullied” over religion.
But the school has pointed out that only the children involved were present during the discussion. Staff say that the child in question was left “frightened and upset” by the exchange. Headteacher Mr Read said Jasmine was told she could talk about Jesus, but could not warn non-believers that they would end up in Hell.
However, Simon Calvert, of the Christian Institute, which is supporting Mrs Cain, said Jasmine did not raise the subject of Hell herself. He said: “If the school is to be believed, then when Jasmine was asked that question she should have either refused to answer it or denied what Christians have believed for 2,000 years. But she didn’t. She just answered the question. The school now has to deal with the problem of whether it is really going to censor children over their Christian beliefs.”
It comes just a week after nurse Caroline Petrie, from Weston-super-Mare, was told she could go back to work having been suspended for two months for offering to pray for a patient.
Mrs Petrie said: “This mum must be feeling so alone, because that’s how I felt. They make you feel guilty for your beliefs. If she is being threatened with the sack just for sending an e-mail asking people to pray, it is terrible. The whole world will be on her side. Please send her my love and tell her I will pray for her.”
Mrs Cain said she was “shocked” to hear that her daughter had been reprimanded for discussing her beliefs.
The next day headmaster Mr Read invited her into his office to discuss the issue after he received a complaint from a mother who was worried her child was being bullied because of her non-religious stance. Mrs Cain then e-mailed a prayer request from her personal computer at home to 10 trusted friends from her church. “I asked them to please pray for us, please pray for Jasmine, please pray for the school and pray for the church,” she said.
A few days later she was called back into Mr Read’s office again. “I didn’t think at this point I could be more stunned. He had in his hand a copy of my private, personal e-mail and it was highlighted all the way through,” she said.
“He said that he was going to investigate me for professional misconduct because I had been making allegations about the school and staff to members of the public.”
Mrs Cain said she was angry about the way she had been treated: “I felt embarrassed that a private prayer e-mail was read by the school – it felt like someone had gone through my personal prayer diary.”
“I do feel our beliefs haven’t been respected and I don’t feel I have been treated fairly. I don’t know what I am supposed to have done wrong.”
But yesterday, Mr Read defended his actions and said the teacher was right to discipline Jasmine for scaring her fellow classmates. 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 seven-year-old with the prospect of ‘going to Hell’ if she does not believe in God.
“This is actually what happened. At no time did the teacher tell any child that they could not talk about God. The e-mail (sent by Jennie Cain) contained untrue allegations about the school, including the allegation that the school tried to stop a child talking about God.”
Teaching unions have defended the school. Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the case demonstrated what a minefield religious issues are in schools.