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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Agnostic teacher sacked from Catholic school in Glasgow

A Scottish teacher is suing Glasgow City Council after she was forced out of her job at a Roman Catholic school because she defines herself as an agnostic.

Anne McShane, a supply teacher employed by Glasgow City Council, was not able to continue working at St Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Glasgow's Jordanhill as a priest refused to give her a reference.

After starting her post in January 2010 Ms McShane claims she was told by bosses she was unable to continue working there. She has now lodged a claim of discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief to the employment tribunals.

Glasgow City Council contests the claim and denies any discrimination. After a pre-hearing review employment, judge Shona MacLean refused the council's request the claim should be struck out and ruled the tribunal should hear Ms McShane's case.

The hearing was told there is a requirement that a teacher appointed to any post in a council-owned Roman Catholic school must be approved by the Roman Catholic Church.

Ms McShane, who was christened and educated in the Roman Catholic faith, was offered the post in 2009 and began working in January 2010 while the application was processed.

After her parish priest allegedly refused to give her a reference, Ms McShane turned to a lawyer. But, the school learned at the end of January Ms McShane's application to the church was to be declined. The hearing was told Ms McShane was informed the council "could not continue to allow her to teach in the post".

Ms McShane said she received a letter from the church stating "if you are Catholic, I require a reference from the parish priest who sees you at Mass".

After asking for a review of the church's decision, Ms McShane was allegedly told: "In looking at your application, I see no priest's reference, I therefore find no evidence of your practise".

A further hearing will take place at a later date.

Published Fri, 10 Jun 2011