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French teacher suspended for allegedly reading Bible passages in class

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A teacher in Indre department in central France has been suspended after he allegedly read passages from the Bible to his primary school students.

The 40-year-old teacher, who was not identified, worked at a school that covered the communes of Badecon-le-Pin, Chavin, Malicornay, and Le Menoux, according to Russia Today, citing French sources.

A group of parents denounced the “proselytism” of the teacher and accused him of violating the principle of secularism in school. In January, the parents reportedly sent an anonymous letter to Indre academic director Pierre-Francois Gachet to complain about the teacher.

According to reports, the teacher instructed the students to study six pages from the Book of Exodus and several passages from a book titled “Christianity Through Texts.” He also showed the film “The Gospel According to St. Matthew” by Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini as well as a film about the life of Moses.

Gachet stated that the teacher has been temporarily suspended, and an investigation into his teaching methods was launched. He said that the purpose of the inquiry was “to determine whether the professor has poured into proselytism or whether he simply lacked discernment.”

The teacher reportedly informed the parents during a meeting at the beginning of the year that he would be teaching his pupils about the Bible.

“During the meeting at the beginning of the year, the professor told us that the class would study Harry Potter as much as the Bible, to discover literature, civilization, history. No parent objected,” said a mother of one student.

François Broggi, the mayor of the Badecon-le Pin district, argued that the teacher “deserved at most a warning,” not a suspension. He further noted that the man was an “excellent teacher” who “has energized this class beyond class hours, in particular by organizing qualified extracurricular activities, offering travel and patriotic ceremonies.”

Christian Chevalier, the secretary general of the Teachers Union Se-UNSA, said that the decision to suspend the teacher was “oppressive and stigmatizing.”

France follows the principles of secularism or laïcité, which prohibits governmental or public institutions from endorsing or promoting any religious beliefs. According to The Local, teachers are allowed to teach about religious books, such as the Bible and the Quran, but they are strictly forbidden from attempting to convert students.