Silver Ring Thing: Victory For Common Sense

The National Secular Society welcomed the High Court’s verdict today in not upholding teenager Lydia Playfoot’s challenge to a ban preventing her from wearing a Christian "purity ring".

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “This is entirely the correct decision. The case was a manipulative attempt to impose a particular religious viewpoint on this school and, presumably, on other schools if this case had been won.

Lydia’s parents run the British chapter of the Silver Ring Thing and had a vested interest in being able to spread its message in schools. Also, Lydia had left the school, Millais School in Horsham, West Sussex.

“Schools must have the right to enforce a uniform policy. Research shows abstinence programmes are worse than ineffective: thorough sex education is the only effective way to reduce teenage pregnancies, and many religious groups oppose it.

“Lydia is quoted as believing the ruling ‘will mean that slowly, over time, people such as school governors, employers, political organisations and others will be allowed to stop Christians from publicly expressing and practising their faith.’

No one was preventing her from wearing a cross or crucifix, so this is a preposterous misrepresentation of the position. The UK has an excellent record of upholding freedom of religious expression, both in schools and elsewhere.

“Lydia has been reported as saying: ‘Over two years ago, I was concerned at the number of teenagers who were catching sexually transmitted diseases, getting pregnant and/or having abortions.’

A problem with abstinence programmes is that when, as is inevitable, some break their pledge, they are ill equipped - both educationally and practically – to cope, making them more prone to these very problems than others. Research from Columbia University and other research quoted in the BMJ confirm significant downsides with abstinence programmes.

“Countries less open to sex education, such as the highly religious US and the UK have the worst teenage rates, whereas secular societies more open to frank sex education, such as the Netherlands, have very low teenage pregnancy rates.”

16 July 2007