Christian Teacher Fired for Not Divorcing Husband Wins in British Court

Quinn Dombrowski / Flickr
Quinn Dombrowski / Flickr
Judge: Her belief in the sanctity of marriage put her at a disadvantage.

British couple Sarah and Matthew Pendleton had been married for almost 13 years when Matthew was arrested for voyeurism and downloading indecent pictures of children. After her husband’s criminal charges, Sarah—an Anglican Christian—was forced to choose between her marriage and her career in education.

Despite her record as an experienced, well-respected teacher of 10- and 11-year-olds in Derbyshire, England, Sarah’s school made it clear that if she chose to stick with Matthew, they would assume that she condoned his behavior, and she would be out of a job.

“By making a choice to continue a relationship with her husband in full knowledge of the offenses he has admitted to, [Sarah’s] actions do not uphold the trust in the profession,” head teacher Jan Seymour said at a disciplinary hearing.

Sarah took her case to court, arguing that she had been unfairly dismissed and discriminated against because of her Christian belief in the sanctity of marriage.

Matthew, a head teacher at a nearby school, was sentenced to 10 months in jail for photographing boys in the locker room with a small camera hidden in a pen. At first Sarah’s school told her that her job was safe when she took a leave of absence to stay with her parents; later, it turned out her job was safe only if she left her husband. In August, the school suspended her. The next month, she was dismissed.

“As long as she stands by her husband, the LA [Local Authority, the UK equivalent of the Department of Family Services] has a clear view that she is not suitable to be a teacher,” the school’s human resources director wrote in an email.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra