A woman who took her two daughters out of school to attend a week-long Christian bible conference has vowed she would ”go to prison” rather than pay a £100 fine.
The 34-year-old mother, who cannot be identified, appeared in court and denied two charges of failing to ensure her daughters attended school.
She admits taking the girls, aged 12 and 13, out of class for five days last October so the family could attend a series of religious seminars together in Rotherhithe, Southwark.
But she claims their school, which cannot be identified for legal reasons, fails to cater for their religious beliefs and instead concentrates on alternative faiths.
The mother received two fixed penalty fines of £50 following her daughter’s absence by Bristol City Council, but yesterday vowed to fight her case.
The woman, of Southmead, Bristol, claims that she is being ”victimised” because of her beliefs and says followers of other faiths are allowed time off.
She represented herself at Bristol Magistrates Court where she denied two counts of failing to ensure her daughters attended school.
Speaking after the hearing, she said: ”I feel as though I am being criminalised for my religious beliefs and have decided to take a stand.
”I took both my daughters out of school so they could be taught discipline, self respect and the importance of respecting others.
”These are traits I believe are missing from the school curriculum, which instead focuses too much on alternative faiths like Islam.
”I’m sure that if we were Muslim we would not be in this situation, and would be allowed to have taken the week off.
”I feel as though I have to take a stand and would rather go to prison than pay the fine.”
The mother-of-five took her daughters, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, to the week-long Rotherhithe Bible Conference, which ran from October 12 to 16 last year.
The event contained a series of seminars and lectures using prayer to teach the importance of respecting others.
The woman claims she tried to inform the school before she left but was unable to get through.
Welfare officers from Bristol City Council spoke to her partner, who cannot be named for legal reasons, who told the school the trio were attending the conference.
But weeks later, she was issued with two £50 fines, which she is now refusing to pay.
Pleading not guilty in court yesterday to failing to ensure her daughters attended school, she said: ”It was not as though we were on a family holiday.
”We were attending a religious event and this is why I’m pleading not guilty.”
Kate Burnham, prosecuting, said: ”This has nothing to do with the type of absence and it is irrelevant whether it was a family holiday or not.
”This is simply a case of unlawful absence.
”Welfare officers have tried to be in touch with the defendant without success. I would strongly urge her to contact them as a matter of emergency.”
The woman was remanded on bail to appear before magistrates on June 23.