Case study: Teacher tells child he is a Christian for celebrating Christmas

This is the second in a series of anonymised case studies from parents, teachers and others who have approached the British Humanist Association (BHA) to help deal with how the education of their children has been unfairly disrupted, or even damaged, by religion in the state school system.

A parent told us an account of their 8 year-old son having religious beliefs prescribed to and imposed upon him by his teacher. The boy had been brought up to decide his beliefs on his own and independently came to the conclusion that no religion seemed convincing to him.

For some reason, a teacher decided to conduct a survey of what religion the children in the class were. After all of his companions had announced their Christianity, the son had the independence to say that he was not religious.  Being eight, the son was not able to fully articulate his views and so the teacher decided to help him explain by asking questions. The teacher asked if the boy celebrated Christmas, to which of course he replied that he did. ’Well, then you’re a Christian,’ replied the teacher.

BHA Education Campaigner Richy Thompson commented, ‘At such a young age, labels like these and pressure to conform can have a profound impact on children who may be forced into thinking they believe something which they otherwise would not. In particular, teachers, who have a special duty of educating children to think for themselves, should not be permitted to try and impart their private convictions onto them.’

To give children the room to make up their own minds, the British Humanist Association in 2009 ran the ‘Please Don’t Label Me’ billboard campaign, which encouraged parents, teachers and others who are around children to respect the child’s right to freedom of belief by not telling them what they are or are not but rather, letting children decide for themselves. Mr Thompson continued, ‘It remains an important, ongoing area of work for the BHA to ensure that children are able to determine their own religion or non-religious beliefs, and that this is not prejudiced by the state school system.’

Have you or your child faced discrimination in the state schools system? If so, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at the details below.

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7462 4993.

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on religious education and worship in schools.

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.