Boy refused bus pass because he has not been baptised

By staff writers
October 25, 2007

The case of a boy who has been refused a bus pass because he has not been baptised as a Roman Catholic has been referred to the Equality Commission.

Elliott Stewart, 11, was denied a free pass to St Leonard’s School in Durham because council rules say a child and at least one of his parents must be a baptised Catholic to get subsidised travel to a faith school, reports a local paper The Journal.

The case is not the first of its kind. Last year a boy who suffered from asthma was refused a place on a school bus and told that he must walk six miles home because he was not a Christian. A girl was also barred from taking an official bus to her Church of England school because she had not been baptised.

In the latest case, Liberal Democrat MEP Fiona Hall has written to the Equality and Human Rights Commission regarding the boys treatment.

The British Humanist Association is amongst those who consider that many current LEA school transport policies contravene the Human Rights Act.

Ms Hall 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 had previously written to the Schools Minister and Durham County Council and have now approached the Equality and Human Rights Commission.”

Elliott, from Beech Close in Brasside, near Durham City, does not qualify for a pass on the basis of where he lives as St Leonard’s is not his closest school.

Having been told by the council that her son was not eligible on religious grounds, Elliott’s mother Treena, 45, saw her complaint rejected by an independent ombudsman.

Speaking last night, Mrs Stewart could not believe the matter has run on for such a long time.

She said: “I’m hoping that this move might give a positive reaction. It’s an absolute waste of money – it’s incredible that it has gone this far.

“He just wants money to get to school – nothing else. I thought it would be resolved by now though.”

The case came to light in September this year, when Elliot’s parents, Treena and Stephen, 48, wrote to Ms Hall explaining their predicament.

Having raised the matter with Durham County Council and Education Secretary Ed Balls, Ms Hall decided to contact the Equality Commission to ask whether the case constitutes religious discrimination.

Despite viewing the process as a waste of time and money, Mrs Stewart said she was determined to see the issue resolved.

She added: “The amount of people who have come up to me and said they couldn’t believe the situation is incredible. I feel responsible for seeing it through because I believe that we have been unjustly treated.

“It’s against everything that religion and education should stand for.”

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