Teacher suspended after offering to pray for student

Published 07 January 2010  |  
A Christian home-visit teacher in the United Kingdom has been suspended by her company after she offered to pray for one of her sick students.

Olive Jones, 54, had given math lessons to a 14-year-old girl who suffers from leukemia at the student’s home. In November, Jones spoke about miraculous healings and offered to pray for the girl in the presence of her mother.

When the mother, Stephanie Lynch, said that the family were non-religious, Jones said she dropped the issue. Jones thought she left that day on good terms with the family, but hours later her company, Oak Hill Short Stay School and Tuition Service, called her and told her that the mother had filed a formal complaint against her.

Her employer told her that her offer of prayer could be seen as “bullying”.

Unlike Jones, Lynch said she had repeatedly asked the math teacher to stop “preaching” to her daughter. Lynch also said her daughter was “traumatised” and “deeply upset” by Jones’ visits, especially after the math teacher had told her that young people go to Heaven after they die to comfort the student whose close friend had died.

“The sessions with Mrs Jones became increasingly traumatic and we decided it was not appropriate for this woman to come to my home,” Lynch recently told The Telegraph.

Jones, however, said she was shocked to hear the parents had problems with her sharing her Christian faith with their daughter.

“I simply wanted to encourage them to be open to prayer but if they did not want to then I would never force it down their throat,” Jones said in defense, according to BBC.

The suspension comes after recent equality and diversity laws in the United Kingdom that call public servants to “promote” equality and “respect” diversity.

Jones said she is neither angry with her employer, who is just trying to interpret the new equality and diversity policies, nor bitter towards the mother, who is just doing what she felt was right. Rather, Jones is upset with the politically-correct system in the United Kingdom under which someone cannot even mention their faith.

“I am amazed that a country with such a strong Christian tradition has become a country where it is hard to speak about your faith,” Jones said.

Since Jones works only part-time for the Oak Hill Short Stay School and does not have a contract with the company, she was released by her employer immediately after the complaint was filed. The home-visit math teacher expressed fear that the incident has left a “black mark” on her name and character and will make it difficult for her to find other employment.

“If I had done something criminal, I believe the reaction would have been the same,” she said.

The Christian Legal Centre has taken up her case.

“Whatever you think of the facts, the reaction here is totally disproportionate,” said Andrea Williams, a barrister and the director of the Christian Legal Centre, according to The Telegraph. “Mrs Jones was a supply teacher for almost five years. We are looking at what legal remedy we have to seek a reinstatement or damages.”

Williams maintained, “This is clear discrimination on the grounds of faith.”

The Oak Hill School service said it is setting up an interview with Jones to further investigate the incident.

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