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A private Christian school that says corporal punishment is part of its religious beliefs asked the House of Lords on Wednesday to uphold its right to spank misbehaving pupils. The Christian Fellowship School in Liverpool, northwest England, says a 1996 government ban on corporal punishment in schools is out of step with the wishes of the public and infringes the rights of Christians to practice their beliefs. The High Court and the Court of Appeal have both rejected that argument. James Dingemans, representing the school and headmaster Philip Williamson, told five law lords — members of the House of Lords who constitute Britain’s highest court of appeal — that it was an established principle of English law that parents had the right to inflict corporal punishment on their children, and could delegate that right to a teacher. “The Court of Appeal was led into error by creating and applying a doctrine of non-interference which is completely inconsistent with a principled approach to religious freedoms,” he told the lords, who are led by Lord Bingham. That, said Dingemans, had meant that “one of the most important human rights is near worthless.” In its ruling, the Court of Appeal said physical punishment for an offense committed at school could be achieved by contacting the pupil’s parents and leaving any punishment to them. That way, there was no question of parents’ religious freedoms being in conflict with the ban on smacking in the 1996 Education Act, the appeal judges said. The case is continuing. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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