Academy accused of tolerating atheism but not Christianity
The T2 Apprenticeship Academy in Bristol allowed ‘an outspoken left-wing atheist’ to remain in his teaching post but sacked a teacher for expressing her Christian opinions about homosexuality.
According to jlpressagency.com, the Bristol Employment Tribunal – hearing the case of Svetlana Powell – was told by Christian Legal Centre lawyer Pavel Stroilov that that the school’s treatment of Powell was “in stark contrast” to its dealing with students’ complaints against another teacher, Andrew Spargo, whom he described as an “outspoken left-wing atheist”.
Stroilov informed that Tribunal that Spargo spent most of his time in class:
Preaching to them on the daily basis about how terrible England is and how many innocent people the government has killed, as well as why Jesus never existed. On one occasion Spargo allegedly shocked the students by showing them a sketch of a naked woman with her legs open and vagina showing. On another, he allegedly twice told a student to ‘get the fuck out of my classroom’.
The school dealt with that situation pastorally. Mr Spargo was only told off, and had his probation period extended for three months. He continues to teach at the Academy, and for all we know, carries on with anti-Christian and anti-British indoctrination of students.
By contrast, Mrs Powell was dismissed on the spot for much milder comments. In my submission, we have proven today that this was because her views are Christian.
Last year Stroilov unsuccessfully represented a sacked magistrate, Richard Page, who claimed he had been “persecuted” for his Christian beliefs.
Powell told the Tribunal that she was dismissed by the government-funded academy in July 2016 after being asked by students about her views on homosexuality.
In reply to a personal question, Mrs Powell said that her personal belief was that homosexuality was against God’s will, but that He loved every person, regardless of what they did, or who they were.
When told that one of the students identified as a lesbian, Powell, in conviction of God’s care and love for every person, turned to her and said: “God loves you”. Two days later, the Academy’s HR Officer, Stacy Preston, told Powell that she was fired for “gross misconduct” with immediate effect.
The Academy’s Chief Safeguarding Officer, Sian Prigg, told the Tribunal that after a group of students complained that they were “brainwashed and preached to”, she decided to contact the local coordinator for Prevent – the government’s counter-terrorism strategy group – to report the incident.
Powell said she did not know of being reported as a “radicalisation threat” until she brought a legal claim against the Academy and read Prigg’s witness statement for the Tribunal.
Powell told the Tribunal she had been a teacher for 17 years at a Bristol College with an exemplary record, before joining the academy in May 2016 as a tutor. T2 is a pre-apprenticeship academy run by a private firm, Marr Corporation, on rolling contracts from the government.
In July of that year a “disruptive” Christian pupil allegedly pressed Powell into discussion with students about her Christian views.
The student, who had originally been warned about his behaviour, then asked the tutor for her personal views on homosexuality. She replied by saying that as a Christian, she “personally” believed the Bible says that homosexual activity was against God’s will, but that God still loves every person regardless of what they did, or who they were.
The same student then said that another student in the group was a lesbian, to which the tutor replied that God loved her. The tutor was then asked whether the lesbian would “go to hell”, to which the tutor replied with the historic Christian view that for everyone who repents, God has provided a way of salvation through His son, Jesus Christ. The tutor said nothing about “hell”.
The discussion became very heated with the original student who had been disciplined talking over others. During break, that student, and four others left the classroom and then went to talk to the Academy manager, Liz Barker.
As a result of this, Powell was then called into another room by Barker, was told that the students had made a complaint, and that she would take it further and would be contacting Human Resources. When Powell returned to work the next day, she was told she had been suspended, and should await news from her employer, via email.
Powell was invited to a disciplinary hearing the next day at 11am, and did not have time to obtain legal representation. At the hearing on 27 July, she was grilled about her Christian faith and what she had expressed about it in her discussion with students.
After one hour, Powell was called back into the room and told her contract was being terminated on the basis that she could not control the class, and that her comments were offensive to some students. She was told to leave the Academy immediately, and that she would not be allowed to appeal her dismissal.
Powell, supported by Christian Legal Centre (CLC), is suing Marr Corporation in Bristol Employment Tribunal for loss of earnings.
Andrea Williams, above, barrister and CEO of the Christian Legal Centre, said:
We are seeing a worrying trend of cases such as this. The fact that Svetlana was reported to Prevent for holding Christian views is a sign of our times. It shows how Prevent will be used to punish innocent and soft targets. A radical rethink is required
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