Christian Teacher Fired for Sharing Views on Homosexuality With Class Loses Tribunal Case

Students seen in a high school classroom.
Students seen in a high school classroom. | (Photo: Reuters/Stephane Mahe)

An employment tribunal in the U.K. has ruled against Christian teacher Svetlana Powell, who says she was dismissed from her job after responding to a student's question about her personal beliefs on homosexuality.

The Bristol Employment Tribunal has dismissed Powell's discrimination claim against the government-funded T2 Apprenticeship Academy, the Christian Legal Centre reported Friday.

The tribunal ruled that Powell was let go "because she allowed herself to be drawn into a discussion where she expressed personal religious views ... and allowed it to escalate and get out of control."

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Powell, who has over 17 years of experience teaching, was dismissed from her position at the academy in July 2016. The dismissal came after a 17-year-old student engaged her about her thoughts on a range of issues such as evolution and homosexuality.

Powell responded by saying that it was her personal belief that homosexuality was against God's will but assured the students that God loves every person no matter who they are.

Svetlana Powell
Svetlana Powell | (Photo: Christian Legal Centre)

Powell was then told that one of the students in the class identified as lesbian. Powell responded by telling the student: "God loves you." Powell was further asked by the instigating student whether the lesbian student would go to Hell.

Powell told the students that the historic Christian teaching is that the way to salvation is provided to us through Jesus Christ and didn't mention anything about Hell.

After the discussion, students in the class complained about Powell to the academy's manager, Liz Barker, who then elevated the issue to the human resources department.

According to the Christian Legal Centre, Powell was initially suspended and asked to explain her Christian beliefs and what she told the students. Two days after the incident, she was informed by a human resources officer that her contract was being terminated for "gross misconduct."

The Christian Legal Centre, which represents Powell, claims that the teacher was also reported to a government anti-terrorist watchdog agency as being a "radicalization threat."

Powell filed a lawsuit in hopes of recovering lost earnings. Her case was heard by the tribunal last Thursday. The employment tribunal handed down its ruling last Friday, according to the law group.

"I decided to use the students' interest in the subject and to have a discussion to accommodate the activities included in the lesson plan," Powell said in a statement. "I considered the topic appropriate, as the discussion about Christian views would contribute in raising cultural issues of our day and awareness of the religion of this country."

Lawyer Pavel Stroilov, who represented Powell in the case, argued in court that the school is guilty of discrimination.

He reasoned that the way the school treated the complaints against Powell are much different from how it treated complaints against "outspoken left-wing atheist" teacher Andrew Spargo.

Powell's lawyer mentioned emails sent to Barker that indicate students had complained about how Spargo had spent 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."

Spargo also stands accused of showing students a sketch that featured a naked woman with her legs spread open.

However, the tribunal judge did not buy the lawyer's comparison of Powell and Spargo and asserted that Powell was let go because of her inability to control the class.

"She was not dismissed, to any material extent, for her Christian religion or beliefs," the judge argued.

Follow Samuel Smith on Twitter: @IamSamSmith Follow Samuel Smith on Facebook: SamuelSmithCP

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