Friday, May 14, 2010

Catholic school girl who refused headscarf for mosque trip labelled a truant

A Roman Catholic schoolgirl in the UK has been labelled a truant after she refused to wear a headscarf during a compulsory trip to a mosque.

Amy Owen, 14, and fellow girl pupils at a Catholic secondary school were told to cover their heads and wear trousers or leggings out of respect for their Muslim hosts.

But when her mother objected, saying she did not want her daughter to 'dress as a Muslim', she received a sternly worded warning letter from the headmaster saying she had no choice.

Peter Lee, head of Ellesmere Port Catholic High School in Cheshire, informed her that the local diocese 'requires' pupils to have an understanding of other religions.

In the letter - with words in block capitals and underlined - Mr Lee said the visit was 'as compulsory as a geography field trip'.

He added: 'There are two reasons for these visits. One is that the scheme of work in religious studies REQUIRES children to have knowledge and understanding of other world religions.

'The second is that the school is REQUIRED to promote tolerance respect and understanding. This is known as community cohesion.

'A failure to do this could result in an unwelcome inspection judgement. None of us would relish that.

'Whilst I may not require you to pay for this I must require your child to participate.'

Amy's mother Michelle Davies refused to back down and, after being told no teachers would be back at school to keep an eye on her daughter, she kept her at home, citing religious objections - as did as many as ten other families.

Yesterday, after the school acted on its threat to class Amy's absence as truancy, Miss Davies accused it of discriminating against Christian pupils.

Read more here...


  1. I wonder if the children of the Mosque will be required to visit the Catholic Church and genuflect in front of the Tabernacle to give their respect to the Lord.

  2. Your point about requiring genuflection before the Tabernacle really gets at the problem. It's an insult to all involved.

    It's also futile to expect her to experience being a Muslim by wearing a headscarf.

    How about having her wear a mitre so she can know what it's like to be a bishop?

    I think it is a good idea for students to have an understanding of world religions. But this incident highlights what's wrong with many religious studies programs.

    The only way they deal with real religious diversity and difference is to pretend that the differences don't mean that much.

    So violating the conscience of a Catholic girl by requiring her to wear a headscarf is okay since we all know it doesn't mean that much anyways. And the greater good of social cohesion is served by her pretending she'll have any idea what Islam is because she wore a garment.

    Good heavens, those headscarves are laden with significance for Muslim women. How about letting non-Catholics taste unconsecrated wafers so they can know what the Eucharist is about?

    This is so patronizing to other religions. Forcing someone to don religious attire or engage in faux religious devotion is an affront to the student and to the religious adherent being studied.

  3. Would the mother have let her child visit the mosque if she had been allowed to wear only her regular uniform? Was that really where her problem lay? If yes, then frankly, I think that she was being quite arrogant and indeed, ignorant. Yes, I am a devout, orthodox catholic.

    Here's what I think, having visited mosques in Egypt, albeit when I wasn't a practicing Christian: I was required to remove my shoes which I did as a sign of respect as it was considered sacred ground. I had no wish to upset or offend anyone. I would do the same now if I wanted to see the beauty and architecture of a mosque. In keeping with that idea - not wishing to be a stumbling block for anyone else, I believe that anyone visiting a worship site of any religion should respect and adhere to the required behavior and dress code. That includes Catholics worshipping in their own churches and any group that wished to visit our churches; WE need to remember modesty in the way WE dress as Catholics.

    The school was not forcing the children to dress as a Muslim for the day. It was asking the girls to cover up – in a pair of leggings and headscarf - as they would not have been allowed in otherwise. The school was, however, forcing the children to go on the trip to the mosque – and that was the real problem. No, I am not splitting hairs. Whatever one thinks of the Muslim faith, one must understand that they require females to dress in a certain way and it would be a violation of this to ignore or flout those requirements. It was expressly stated that this was about respect, and for the mother to say that it was about her child becoming Muslim for the day really does miss this point completely.

    Pupils and their families should have been given a choice to go on the trip, knowing that if they did, it would be a requirement OF THE MOSQUE for the girls to wear extra covering. Honoring the traditions and expectations of another religion in this way is not coercive. Making it compulsory to visit the mosque in the first place is where the violation of religious freedom occurred.

  4. Emmy64: You might ultimately be right about the facts and circumstances.

    By the article and the school's response, I understood this to be a violation of the mother's conscience. She had scruples about her daughter donning Muslim garb. If this was simply about respect or modesty, then this may be much ado about nothing although the school's response is awfully forceful.

    In any event, the family's conscience should have been respected. Permitting the girl to opt-out was the right thing to do. She could have been required to write a one page paper on how the Catholic Church views Muslims or something that meets the educational objective.

    We may do a segment on this to clear it up. If so it will be posted the day of.

    I would add that there are situations where non-compliance is a matter of fidelity. Many evangelicals I know would not genuflect before the Eucharist for reasons of conscience. They would see this not simply a matter of respect to me but a matter of idolatry or false worship. I wouldn't expect them to do so if they were visiting my parish church. Would you?

  5. Good question. Still thinking that one over.
    You said, "I would add that there are situations where non-compliance is a matter of fidelity" - totally agree. Anyway, please let us all know if you do a segment on it. REALLY interesting. Thanks.