School wants right to spank
Associated Press, November 2, 2001

LONDON--A private Christian school fighting for the right to spank unruly pupils told the High Court on Friday that corporal punishment was part of its religious doctrine.

The Christian Fellowship School in Liverpool, northwest England, claims a government 1998 ban of corporal punishment in schools is "out of sync" with the wishes of the public and infringes the rights of Christians to practice their beliefs.

At the launch of its appeal for a review of the ban Friday, the school's lawyer quoted from the Bible to justify the smacking of pupils.

Lawyer John Friel told Judge Patrick Elias his clients "believed as part of their religious worship and part of their religious beliefs that corporal punishment is part of their Christian doctrine."

In Britain, parents may hit children if it constitutes "reasonable chastisement." Corporal punishment was banned from all schools in 1998.

Friel said that if the law "completely abolishes the use of physical punishment in independent schools," it was effectively breaching the rights of Christians to practice their religious beliefs. Such rights were enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, he said.

Parents were entitled to delegate their "right of physical punishment" of their children to somebody acting on their behalf, including teachers, he told the judge.

Head teacher Phil Williamson said Thursday that when the school petitioned the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in 1999, it ruled that there was nothing in the law to prevent schools smacking children if their parents approved. The British government has rejected the European Court's ruling.

The Christian Fellowship School has pupils from many Christian denominations aged four to 16. Williamson said parents want the school to be able to hit children "sparingly," believing this to be a better punishment than suspension.

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