UK: "Purity ring" schoolgirl goes to High Court

A teenage schoolgirl will appeal to the High Court on Friday to overturn a ban on her wearing a "purity ring" at school to symbolize her decision to abstain from sex before marriage.
Lydia Playfoot, 16, from West Sussex, says the silver ring is an expression of her faith and should be exempt from the school's rules on wearing jewellery.
"It is really important to me because in the Bible it says we should do this," she told BBC radio. "Muslims are allowed to wear headscarves and other faiths can wear bangles and other types of jewellery. It feels like Christians are being discriminated against."

Playfoot's lawyers will argue that her right to express religious belief is upheld by the Human Rights Act.

There have been a series of rows in schools in recent years over the right of pupils to wear religious symbols or clothing, such as crucifixes and veils. Last year, the Law Lords rejected Shabina Begum's appeal for permission to wear a Muslim gown at her school in Luton. That case echoed a debate in France over the banning of Muslim headscarves in state schools.

Lydia Playfoot's parents help run the British arm of the American campaign group the Silver Ring Thing, which promotes abstinence among young people. Members wear a ring on the third finger of the left hand. It is inscribed with "Thess. 4:3-4," a reference to a Biblical passage from Thessalonians which reads: "God wants you to be holy, so you should keep clear of all sexual sin."

Lydia's father, Phil Playfoot, said his daughter's case was part of a wider cultural trend towards Christians being "silenced." "What I would describe as a secular fundamentalism is coming to the fore, which really wants to silence certain beliefs, and Christian views in particular," he said.

Leon Nettley, head teacher of Millais School in Horsham, denies discrimination, saying the ring contravenes the school's rules on wearing jewellery. "The school is not convinced pupils' rights have been interfered with by the application of the uniform policy," he told the Brighton-based Argus newspaper. "The school has a clearly published uniform policy and sets high standards."

22 June 2007