Azara Blog: Schoolgirl claims that an anti-sex ring is a Christian symbol

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Date published: 2007/06/23

The BBC says:

A 16-year-old girl has gone to the High Court to accuse her school of discriminating against Christians by banning the wearing of "purity rings".

Lydia Playfoot was told by Millais School in Horsham, West Sussex, to remove her ring, which symbolises chastity, or face expulsion.

The school denies breaching her human rights, insisting the ring is not an essential part of the Christian faith.

On Friday, judgement in the case was reserved to a future date.

Miss Playfoot says Sikh and Muslim pupils can wear bangles and headscarves in class.

BBC News religious affairs correspondent Robert Piggott said a group of girls at the school were wearing the rings as part of a movement called the "Silver Ring Thing" (SRT).

Human rights barrister Paul Diamond told the High Court the school's action was "forbidden" by law.

"Secular authorities and institutions cannot be arbiters of religious faith," Mr Diamond said.

He said a question the judge would have to answer was: "What are the religious rights of schoolchildren in the school context?"
...
Miss Playfoot's school said her ring broke uniform rules and ordered her to remove it.

When she refused, she was taken out of lessons and made to study on her own.

She told BBC Breakfast: "In the Bible it says you should remain sexually pure and I think this is a way I want to express my faith."

Miss Playfoot is seeking a judicial review under Article Nine of the Human Rights Act which guarantees freedom of religious expression.

She says that should protect her right to wear the ring.

In a written statement to Deputy Judge Michael Supperstone QC, Miss Playfoot said young girls faced a "moral and ethical crisis" and that other teenage girls at her school had become pregnant.

She said other pupils regularly broke the uniform code with nose rings, tongue studs, badges and dyed hair.

The only reason for banning the rings was because the school refused to "give respect to aspects of the Christian faith they are not familiar with", Miss Playfoot said.

"The real reason for the extreme hostility to the wearing of the SRT purity ring is the dislike of the message of sexual restraint which is counter cultural and contrary to societal and governmental policy," she added.

But headteacher Leon Nettley, said the school was applying a basic uniform policy, which "has the overwhelming support of pupils and parents".

He said her ring was "not a Christian symbol, and is not required to be worn by any branch within Christianity", adding that Lydia was free to display her faith in other ways.

Lawyers for the school will insist that it is not operating a discriminatory policy because allowances made for Sikhs and Muslims only occur for items integral to their religious beliefs.

It argues that a Christian pupil would be allowed to wear a crucifix.

The school is correct. (But being correct does not mean that they will win the case.) The ring is not a Christian symbol, it is an anti-sex symbol.

Playfoot is taking the piss when she claims that "sexual restraint is counter ... to societal and government policy". Has she been taught in school that she should have sex? Has she been sent leaflets by the government urging her to have sex? Indeed, has she been encouraged by anyone besides her peers to have sex?

The judges can easily answer Playfoot's barrister's question: "What are the religious rights of schoolchildren in the school context?" Schoolchildren no more have the right to decide what is allegedly a religious symbol than they have the right to decide what is taught in a maths lesson.

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