A primary school teacher in France was suspended after reportedly reading passages from the Bible to his students. Denounced by a “group of parents” who wrote an anonymous letter to the director of the school, the teacher is now accused of violating the principle of secularism in school and even of “proselytism”– an attempt to convert people to a religious belief.
The incident took place in the Indre district in central France, according to a local French newspaper.
An anonymous letter written by some parents claimed that the teacher, whose name was not revealed, was referencing some passages from the Bible in his class.
The teacher instructed the students to study six passages from the book of Exodus during one of his classes. In a separate incident he also showed a film by Paolo Pasolini, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, and a film about the life of Moses, a French newspaper reports.
As a result, the teacher was temporarily suspended from classes and an administrative investigation was opened to “determine” whether lessons that had Catholic religious references were consistent with the curriculum.
The aim of the inquiry is to “to determine whether the professor has poured into proselytism or whether he simply lacked discernment,” said the school’s director Pierre-François Gachet.
The mayor of the Badecon-le Pin district François Broggi, however, suggested that “this deserved at most a warning,” not a suspension. He described the man as an “excellent teacher” who “has energized this class beyond class hours, in particular by organizing qualified extracurricular activities, offering travel and patriotic ceremonies.”
One of the mothers of a student told La Croix newspaper that during the parents’ meeting at the beginning of the year, the professor said that the class would study Harry Potter as much as the Bible to “discover literature, civilization, history. “No parent objected,” she said.
France follows the principles of secularism—separation of state and religion according to which governmental or public institutions can’t endorse or promote any religious beliefs. In 2004 France also banned the wearing of any religions symbols in French public primary and secondary schools.