A British Deputy High Court judge ruled against a British school girl on Monday, saying that her wearing a purity ring was unacceptable at school.
The judge, Michael Supperstone QC, insisted that the ring is not a critical part of Lydia Playfoot's Christian faith, and that it clearly violated her school's dress code. Thus, she has no right to wear it.
While those in favor of the ruling were "delighted" by the outcome, Playfoot and fellow Christians were discouraged and still feel that their faith had been discriminated against.
"[The ruling] mean[s] that slowly, over time, people such as school governors, employers, political organizations and others will be allowed to stop Christians from publicly expressing and practicing their faith," explained the purity ring girl following the case.
Playfoot, along with eleven other girls at Millais School in Horsham, West Sussex, England, began the school year by sporting chastity rings as part of the "Silver Ring Thing" – an American-born Christian education project aimed at helping teenage girls value themselves and abstain from sex outside marriage.
Each ring has a carving that references to the biblical verse I Thessalonians 4:3-4, which reads, "God wants you to be holy, so you should keep clear of all sexual sin. Then each of you will control your body and live in holiness and honor."
The girls were asked to remove the rings, however, by school officials, citing that they were breaking the school's dress code. But Playfoot refused, noting that other religious groups were able to wear faith-based items. Muslims can wear headscarves and Sikhs can wear Kara bracelets.
After administrators still refused to allow the purity rings, the Christian girl decided to take the case to higher courts, saying that her faith was specifically being discriminated against.
But the High Court ruled that the school was "fully justified" in its actions. The head judge explained that the piece of jewelry was not a vital link for her to show her faith and that it was not a "religious artifact" that would bypass the school's dress code.
"Whatever the ring is intended to symbolize, it is a piece of jewelry," ruled Supperstone. "[S]he voluntarily accepted the uniform policy of the school and there are other means open to her to practice her belief without undue hardship or inconvenience."
School officials expressed that they were happy with the outcome but would have preferred to avoid going this far in the first place.
"Whilst we are clearly delighted with the outcome of the court hearing today, our success is tinged with regret that proceedings have needed to progress to this level," Leon Nettley, the headmaster of the school, told the British Broadcasting Corp.
Playfoot as well as Christian and secular groups supporting her were dissatisfied with the final outcome for a number of reasons.
They felt that the ring was a genuine reflection of their faith, and that the ruling unfairly discriminated against Christians. The ruling was more of a judgment call rather than objective, according to them.
"In holding that Lydia's ring is not a manifestation of her belief, Judge Supperstone seems to be making judgments on what is and what is not a valid expression of faith," said Andrea Williams, Public Policy Officer of the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship, in a statement following the trial. "Furthermore, it is hard to fathom how a teenage girl's right to wear a purity ring should be limited because it could pose a threat to 'public order, health or morals.'"
Also, religious people noted that it takes away an important method to promote abstinence, which they feel is in need among today's youth.
"Over two years ago, I was concerned at the number of teenagers who were catching sexually transmitted diseases, getting pregnant and/or having abortions," explained Playfoot, according to the BBC. "The government's sex education program is not working and the pressure on young people to 'give in' to sex continues to increase. This is often because of the media's focus on sex and the expectations of others."
The court ruled that Playfoot's father pay £12,000 to pay for the school's legal costs.
The chastity ring girl is considering filing an appeal.