15 November 2013
Scot wins compensation in religious dispute
In a landmark case that may have wide-ranging effects on both the Scottish and wider UK school system, a man has won £1,000 compensation after a dispute.
David Michael, who is an atheist, accepted the damages after he claimed he was victimised because of his religious stance at his child's school on the island of Great Bernera, just off the coast of the Isle of Lewis.
While the council are claiming that Mr Michael's approach to complaining about the teaching of ethics in schools was "unreasonable" and that it will be concluded in the courts, the payment of compensation may signal a change in tack by school governors.
Previously, educational establishments were generally protected by the court system and allowed to interpret the national curriculum as they wished in regards to how historical events were portrayed, but the action brought by Mr Michael may change this.
The Scot complained that the teaching of lessons about Martin Luther King were infused directly with religious messages, something he did not want his son to be exposed to.
Mr Michael has said he intends to donate the £1,000 in compensation he received back to the school as he does not want to deprive youngsters of their education.
But despite this act of goodwill, the Western Isles Council remains opposed to the parent's action.
A spokesperson for the authority told the local Herald: "The school was flexible with how it dealt with this issue throughout, but what we were adamant we would not do was change the curriculum on the basis of one parent's views. The parent did not want to have his child removed from religious education.
"He wanted to change the curriculum specifically in relation to the importance of faith to public figures ... we argue that was unreasonable."
The spokesperson added that it had only settled with Mr Michael so it could avoid spending extra resources in the courts, something that may spur further action from the atheist.
By Chris Stevenson