Monday, 1 February 2010

Who are the zealots? (cont.)

The Mail on Sunday reported yesterday, with very little fanfare, that Olive Jones, the 'teacher sacked for offering to pray for sick girl' has got her 'job back'.

(The full background to this story can be read in an earlier post here.)

Like the original article back in December, yesterday's was also written by Jonathan Petre.

He has repeated the lie she was sacked, he has repeated the lie this was only about an offer to pray, does not retract the 'prayer was bullying' claim, he has not spoken to the family, nor to Jones' employers and has once again given Jones the platform to play the victim. He even conveniently forgets to mention the girl has leukaemia and is the real victim here.

It's just more agenda-first, facts-last journalism.

More than ever it is now clear that she was never truly 'sacked' - simply that her services (which only amounted to 12 hours per week in any case) were not being used while a serious complaint about her was investigated.

And a family complaining that she was upsetting their leukaemia-stricken daughter with inappropriate religious talk during maths lessons is a serious complaint.

And now it has been investigated, she is back to her job much as before (or she should be - the Council have said they have offered her further work but, curiously, she has not yet accepted this offer).

Petre does not say whether Jones will be returning to teach the girl whose parents made the complaint - the Council have not said anything on that either - but you would suspect she won't be. And Petre wouldn't want to say that, just in case it makes Jones look like she did something wrong.

Which she did.

He also fails to mention that Jones was repeatedly droning on about her belief in a 'miracle' which she thinks saved her when she was a teenager. It was astonishingly inappropriate for her to talk about that in front of this very sick girl and it is sad that the 'prayer offer' became the focus. But inevitably it did because it was easy and made the whole thing sound ridiculous - and so many unthinking, unquestioning people believed that was all there was to the story.

Jones makes some telling remarks:

'I wouldn’t have been able to do it without The Mail on Sunday.'

At the time of the original article, the Council made clear they were waiting to meet with Jones. But rather than arrange a meeting, Jones instead ran off to the Christian Legal Centre (who had gone through this before with the nurse Caroline Petrie case), in the belief that getting media attention with some one-sided, sympathetic coverage may help her with the investigation. Hopefully, the Council have not been bullied into this decision for fear of a media backlash.

She claims again she was unaware of the family's unhappiness with her expressing her religious beliefs, despite this being directly contradicted by what the mother said:

'Mrs Jones was employed to teach maths but used every opportunity to discuss religion, despite the fact I made it clear we were a non-religious family and didn't want to talk about these issues in this way...

'The sessions with Mrs Jones became increasingly traumatic and we decided it was not appropriate for this woman to come to my home.'

But Jones also says:

'Had I known [about the complaint] I would never have offered to pray'.

Which sounds like she is admitting it was inappropriate if the parents had said 'no' - which they, of course, said they did.

The Council talk about what is appropriate in their statement:

we agreed together that it can be appropriate for a teacher or tutor to offer to share their faith with a pupil or family. However, a careful professional judgement needs to be made as to whether this is appropriate and indeed acceptable to the person or family concerned. Olive also agreed that she would respect either the wishes of a family and/or guidance from a manager not to discuss faith matters with a particular pupil or family.

So no banning of religion. Just Jones being told there's a time and a place, and 'no' really does mean 'no'.

It's quite telling to look at the coverage of this new development, which was posted on the Mail website on Saturday night. No other media outlet appears to have covered it until Monday afternoon when the BBC, PA and a blog on the Guardian website mentioned it.

Yet there were scores of misleading, inaccurate, sloppy articles that appeared soon after the original, relying solely on the Mail on Sunday's dubious claims.

Almost none of them will be corrected, and it seems very few people will follow up to explain she still has her job.

But the fact that Jones still has her job isn't news. It doesn't fit the 'PC gone mad, Christians under attack' agenda that so many people mindlessly believe in despite there being almost no serious evidence to support it.

The Mail on Sunday's original editorial spoke of the:

fundamental problem, the slow takeover of this country by politically correct zealots

Given Jones is still teaching, how's that 'takeover' by 'zealots' going?


  1. No means no. Quite right. Bit like telling a street salesman (or a 'chugger') that no, you don't want to sign up with EDF or take out a standing order to support the Red Cross, but you're not telling them that they aren't allowed to stand in the street selling, just that you're not interested.

  2. And anyway, what's "political correctness" about expecting someone to take no for an answer?


Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

Comments are moderated - generally to filter out spam and comments wishing death on people - but other messages will be approved as quickly as possible.