Christian teacher who was fired for not divorcing her husband wins wrongful termination battle. Here are the bizarre details
Posted July 21, 2016
A British teacher has won a court battle after being fired for refusing to separate from her husband following his arrest for secretly recording young boys — a bizarre employment case that ended in May, but is attracting renewed attention.
The battle touched off after Sarah Pendleton's husband, Matthew, was arrested in 2013 for secretly recording images of young boys — a situation that quickly forced her to choose between her job as a teacher at Glebe Junior School in the U.K. and her marriage, Christianity Today reported.
Matthew Pendleton's arrest came following charges that he used a secret camera to record boys while they changed outfits before swim class; he was head teacher at Pinxton Kirkstead Junior School at the time.
Not long after the arrest, Sarah Pendleton, who is an Anglican Christian, was reportedly fired when she refused to separate from him, arguing that her Christian faith prevented her from divorcing; they had been married nearly 13 years.
In particular, she argued that she was discriminated against due to her belief in the God-ordained sanctity of marriage, according to Christianity Today.
But at her disciplinary hearing, a head teacher said that the decision to stay with Matthew constituted actions on the part of Sarah Pendleton that did "not uphold the trust in the profession," the outlet reported.
"As long as she stands by her husband, the LA (a government body similar to the Department of Family Services) has a clear view that she is not suitable to be a teacher," read an email from the human resources officer at Glebe Junior School.
Despite the charges against her husband, Sarah Pendleton argued that her marriage was an important promise to God and that she would not separate so long as he showed "unequivocal repentance."
It was a stance that led to her dismissal in Aug. 2013, despite what was purportedly an excellent 12-year teaching record and no reported evidence that she knew about the activities he was engaged in, the Derby Telegraph reported.
But when Pendleton challenged the dismissal based on grounds that she was discriminated against, an employment judge ruled in her favor, agreeing to reward damages from both the school and the local county council in Derbyshire, England.
According to the Independent, she will likely walk away with "thousands of pounds of compensation," with Judge Jennifer Eady QC saying that the decision to fire her was "outside the band of reasonable responses."
It should be noted that Pendleton initially won in the tribunal on grounds that she had been wrongfully terminated, but not on the grounds of indirect religious discrimination. That said, she won the latter on appeal, which Eady presided over.
The Church of England's official stance on marriage and divorce acknowledges that not all unions last forever, though the religious body believes that marriage is meant to be lifelong in nature.
"The Church of England wishes all who marry a lifetime of love that grows within God's protection," the Anglican church's website reads. "But we recognise that some marriages do fail for all sorts of sad and painful reasons."
It is up to priests to decide whether remarriage is permitted following divorce.
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