(Strasbourg, France) - The European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) today expressed concern about a closely watched case involving a French teacher who was punished for talking about abortion in his classroom.
The case involves Mr. Philippe Isnard, a teacher of history and geography at Manosque, France, who was dismissed from his teaching duties March 31st from the French National Educational system for showing his students videos and pictures on abortion while discussing French abortion law.
Mr. Isnard was dismissed without receiving any financial payment, the harshest disciplinary sanction. He is now without any financial resources to raise his family which includes two children. He is not even eligible to benefit from the social welfare system in place.
Mr. Isnard’s story raises serious concerns about the partiality of the national education on the issue of right to life and abortion.
The teacher points out that the French history, geography and civics curriculum requires teachers to organise debates on social issues, including contradictory documents. Like every year, Mr. Isnard organised one such debate on abortion in October 2010, inviting students to participate and provide their own material if they wished. He introduced several documents and films to highlight both sides of the topic. He discussed the text of the 1975 abortion law, read a speech by Simone Veil defending the legislation and played short documentaries to the class (“Sois un homme”, “SOS, femme en détresse” and “No need to argue”) as well as showing an image of a 12-week-old fetus.
No students were compelled to view the photos or film. Each was given the opportunity to abstain if they so desired. Further, the students – aged about 15-16 years old - were not obliged to remain in the classroom for the debate. Mr. Isnard never prevented anyone from expressing themselves and respected all his students, and attempted to deliver information from a scientific point of view. Mr. Isnard said the aim of his class was not to shock but to spread the truth, science and to educate his students - information that he had hoped would prevent students from seeking abortions.
Based on a denunciation from pro-abortion activists, the French education minister has denounced the teacher’s alleged actions asserting. “What has happened is unacceptable. Professors are under obligation to respect neutrality, and to have respect for the person.”
This criticism comes at a time when Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the United States, was invited to the school to “explain” abortion rights. The students were divided into groups of five and participated in a two hour seminar by this pro-abortion organization.
Following an investigation into Mr. Isnard's actions inside the classroom, a disciplinary committee held a hearing March 9th. At the request of Mr. Isnard, Grégor Puppinck, Director of the ECLJ, testified on his behalf. Puppinck expressed concern about the disciplinary action taken and attempted to explain who Mr. Isnard's instruction and comments were protected due to freedom of expression under European Law. Unfortunately, Puppinck said the committee was not interested in hearing about freedom of expression, but seemed intent on discussing his religious beliefs, which of course, has no bearing on Mr. Isnard's case or the disciplinary action taken against him.
Mr. Isnard, who was initially suspended for four months, was ultimately permanently removed from the French National Education administration. He continues to pursue his case in court and his students have expressed their support for him, signing a petition of support for their teacher.
The European Centre for Law and Justice is an international, Non-Governmental Organization dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights in Europe and worldwide. The ECLJ holds special Consultative Status before the United Nations/ECOSOC since 2007.
The ECLJ engages legal, legislative, and cultural issues by implementing an effective strategy of advocacy, education, and litigation. The ECLJ advocates in particular the protection of religious freedoms and the dignity of the person with the European Court of Human Rights and the other mechanisms afforded by the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and others.