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Witch’s dismissal nothing to do with faith

PA, via The Guardian, UK
Mar. 23, 2007 • Monday March 26, 2007

A witch was accused of using her beliefs as a scapegoat for her being sacked from her teaching job, an employment tribunal was told today.

Sommer De La Rosa, 34, a practising white witch of the Wiccan faith, is claiming unfair dismissal after being fired from her job as a teaching assistant at the Dorothy Stringer school in Brighton, East Sussex.

She claimed she was banned from discussing her faith and wearing a pentagram – a symbol of her faith.

But the school claims she was sacked for her poor attendance. She had 21.5 days off during her six-month probationary period.

Ms De La Rosa worked in the religious studies and music department of the school for eight months until May last year.

The Hove tribunal heard that Ms De La Rosa received advice on discussing her faith with pupils just once, and the subject was only ever raised again by her.

Ms De La Rosa accused her line manager Ros Stephens of being “openly discriminatory” because she “compared my religion to communism stating that it could lead to complaints of tainted teaching methods”.

She said: “This made me feel like a freak and that my beliefs were wrong.”

But Ms Stephens told the tribunal: “I was saying ‘if you have a strong belief then maybe it’s just best not to mention it at all because it’s leading you into unknown territory’.”

She accused Ms De La Rosa of using a meeting to discuss her poor attendance record to talk about her faith.

She said: “It was dominating the whole meeting which was meant to be about attendance.”

Explaining her communism analogy, she said: “My father was a communist in the 1920s and ’30s and fought against fascism and had very strong convictions about what was right. He was a school teacher. He would always go back to his political convictions.

“The way the meeting was progressing, wanting to talk about religion, reminded me of that. It was not meant to be offensive either to my father or to Sommer.”

Ms Stephens said that Ms De La Rosa was employed as a departmental assistant and her duties were primarily to provide sick cover for teachers.

The tribunal continues.

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