Friday, October 26, 2007

Faith bias claim in bus pass row

The case of a schoolboy who was denied a free bus pass because he had not been baptised has been referred to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Elliott Stewart, 11, from Brasside in Durham, attends St Leonard's RC Comprehensive School in the city.

But Durham County Council said he could not have free travel because neither he nor his parents are baptised Catholic.

But Lib Dem MEP Fiona Hall wants the commission to consider whether the ban constitutes religious discrimination.

Durham County Council said rules for faith schools were clear and parents should be aware of them when applying for places.

'Religious convictions'

Elliott's Catholic father Stephen, 48, and mother Treena, 45, an Anglican, did not have him baptised because they want him to choose his religion.

They are now paying the £6-a-week bus fare themselves.

Ms Hall, who has taken up the family's case, said: "Whether or not a child is baptised should be a matter for the parents, not the council. And eligibility for free travel to and from school should not depend on religious convictions."

"I have previously written to the schools minister and Durham County Council and have now approached the Equality and Human Rights Commission."

Mrs Stewart said: "If the school had turned round and said that it was a Catholic school and Elliott could not attend because he was not Catholic, I would have accepted that, but this situation is absolutely terrible." +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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