Pagan teacher to be disciplined by school

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The Independent Online

The Pagan Federation's first national youth manager has been suspended from his job as a secondary school teacher.

Disciplinary action has been brought against Ralph Morse following an interview he gave in last week's Independent on Sunday, in which he revealed his new role.

The Pagan Federation has accused the school of persecuting Mr Morse, 44, a witch and member of his local coven. "This is religious discrimination," said the federation's spokesman, Andy Norfolk. "We feel that his suspension is unwarranted because the Pagan Federation is a reasonable organisation. We are not involved in anything sinister."

Mr Morse, who is being defended by the National Union of Teachers, faces the sack, though there will first be an investigation by governors.

He was suspended from his post at Shenfield High School, a comprehensive in Essex where he taught media studies and drama, last Monday, the day after the Independent on Sunday article. Eric Pickles, the Conservative MP for Brentwood and Ongar, had expressed concern over Mr Morse's dual roles while Christian groups had described the situation as "dangerous".

The school's headteacher, John Fairhurst, issued a statement on Wednesday which said the school was "appalled" to be associated with the Pagan Federation and "wish it to be known that we completely and unequivocally reject their world of witchcraft and magic".

Mr Fairhurst said: "A teacher's private activities are, of course, his private activities. However, there is no doubt that this man's private interests are impinging upon the school.

"The member of staff concerned has been suspended pending an investigation into the extent of his activities and the conflicts of interest that arise between his out-of-school activities and his professional role."

Mr Fairhurst said the school taught religious education in a way "which we hope and expect would enable our students to reject the dangerous temptations of the occult".

Mr Morse, who lives in Colchester, is a member of the local Silver Wheel coven where his wife, Carole, is high priestess. He was appointed the Pagan Federation's first youth manager after a surge of interest among youngsters in paganism. He is producing an information pack about paganism and witchcraft for distribution to inquiring teenagers although it will not go to anyone under 16 without parental permission.

Mr Morse, who told the Independent on Sunday he participated in initiation ceremonies where people were naked, said he would use his position as youth manager to counter the "misleading" information about pagans and to steer youngsters away from internet sites which could be luring them into satanic cults and devil worship.

He said he would not preach, convert or recruit youngsters and had discussed his new role with his school bosses.

Pagans, who predate Christians by several thousand years, worship a multitude of deities, based mainly on the seasons and harvests. Paganism is enjoying a revival - there are an estimated 100,000 practising pagans in the UK.

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