UK charity ‘endangered teacher’s life’ with social media post

Batley Grammar School teacher was sent death threats after aid group’s message

Police positioned outside the school gates. Angry parents are protesting outside a Batley Grammar School, West Yorks, after a teacher allegedly showed derogatory caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, pictured in West Yorks, March 25 2021.  See SWNS story SWLEprotest.

The UK charity watchdog has given an official warning to an aid group who identified a teacher on social media leading to him being sent death threats and forced into hiding.

Purpose of Life identified the man on Facebook after he showed pupils a visual representation of the Prophet Mohammed in a religious education lesson.

The teacher was cleared of wrongdoing after an independent inquiry into teaching protocol at the school, in West Yorkshire, northern England.

“The findings are clear, that the teaching staff involved did not use the resource with the intention of causing offence, and that the topics covered by the lesson could have been effectively addressed in other ways,” the inquiry’s report said.

The event occurred months after another teacher, Samuel Paty, was murdered in France by an extremist.

Paty had shown pupils a depiction of the Prophet Mohammed during a class on free speech, having first given Muslim children permission to close their eyes.

The Charity Commission has now given Purpose of Life an official warning.

“The Commission considers that a breach of trust and/or duty and/or misconduct and/or mismanagement has been committed in connection with the charity,” it said.

It said the group had put the charity’s “reputation at risk by publishing an open letter that publicly named a person at the centre of a protest, despite there being a foreseeable risk to the person’s safety” and that it was “written in such a way as to be likely to inflame existing tensions within the local community”.

The watchdog also criticised Purpose of Life for publishing two tweets and one video that supported a political party and political candidate, and criticised another that breached Commission guidance in relation to campaigning and political activity.

It has ordered the charity to ensure it has effective monitoring of its social media and to ensure its trustees are aware of data protection law and political campaigning protocol.

“Failure to remedy the breaches specified above in this official warning may lead to further regulatory action being taken by the Commission,” it said.

BATLEY, ENGLAND - MARCH 26: People gather outside the gates of Batley Grammar School, after a teacher was suspended for showing an image of the Prophet Muhammad in class, on March 26, 2021 in Batley, England. A few dozen people, including parents of students, gathered outside the school gates yesterday morning to protest the teacher's actions. The school issued an apology yesterday and said the teacher had been suspended. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The National Secular Society has described Purpose of Life as a “public menace” and said its actions put the man’s life at risk.

“I very much welcome this rebuke from the watchdog,” Stephen Evans, chief executive of the National Secular Society, told The National.

“Naming the teacher put his life in real danger – and, given the beheading of a teacher in France in similar circumstances, the charity must have been well aware of the potential implications of their actions.

“The emergence of a de facto blasphemy law, enforced by the threat of violence, poses a serious risk to free expression. Therefore, rather than providing a public benefit, this charity has showed itself to be a public menace.”

Despite the school-commissioned inquiry ruling the teacher can return to work he has not felt able to do so.

“In the light of those conclusions, the suspensions put in place while the investigation was under way will now be lifted,” it said.

“The Trust deeply regrets the distress caused by the use of this resource.”

Updated: October 5th 2021, 11:23 AM