LONDON – A 16-year-old Christian student in the United Kingdom is taking her school to the High Court over her right to wear a Christian "purity ring."
Lydia Playfoot hit the headlines last year when governors at Millais School in Horsham, West Sussex, banned her from wearing a small silver ring symbolizing her Christian commitment to sexual abstinence until marriage.
The Silver Ring Thing is a Christian education project aimed at helping teenage girls value themselves, make the right choices about their future, and reduce Britain's ever-increasing number of reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies among teenagers.
Lydia has criticized the treatment she had received from the school which led to her recent decision to stop wearing the ring.
"My friends and I have had detentions and been taught in isolation for wearing the ring," she says. "I feel like I've been treated the same as someone who is caught bringing cannabis into school."
Lydia and 20 other Christian pupils at the school have been punished for wearing their rings. They were told the ring broke the school's uniform policy – a policy that prohibited all jewelry, except ear studs, but still allowed for Muslims to wear headscarves and Sikhs to wear Kara bracelets.
"My ring is a symbol of my religious faith," she insists. "I think, as a Christian, it says we should keep ourselves pure from sexual sinfulness and wearing the ring is a good way of making a stand."
Following nine months of protracted correspondence and meetings with the school, governors rejected her latest request for permission to wear the ring. She could injure another pupil if she fell over while wearing it, they claimed, and furthermore the ring is not a valid expression of her Christian faith.
After sending a letter to the governors and teachers explaining why the ring was an expression of her Christian faith, Lydia eventually relented and has removed the ring so that her studies, culminating this spring with her GCSE exams, did not continue to be affected.
"I stopped wearing the ring because it was being made really difficult for me," she says.
Lydia is, however, taking her case to the High Court. She believes the school has infringed her rights under Article Nine of the Human Rights Act, which she says gives her the right to, "in public or private, manifest her religion or belief in worship teaching, practice and observance."
The school has said it would allow Lydia to attach the ring to her school bag, or she can look for another school that will allow her to wear the ring, but Lydia believes her school's uniform policy is "discriminatory" as it allows all faiths, except Christians, to wear items symbolic of their beliefs.
Lydia notes that Sikh girls are not asked to attach their bracelets to their bags, and the The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has indicated that research shows there is an "insignificant risk" in wearing a small smooth ring to school.
Lydia is supported in her legal action by her parents Phil and Heather Playfoot.
"We are extremely proud of our daughter who has shown the courage to stand up for what is right and true and who is trying to make a positive impact on her generation," says Heather Playfoot. "In a nation that is seeing an escalating rise in the rates of sexually transmitted infections, my hope is that schools, and all those in authority, would back any youngster who is living for what is the best way of life for our society."