joshua sutcliffe teacher sacked mohammed false prophet
Freedom of Religion

Catholic school sacks teacher for saying Mohammed was a false prophet

There is something very odd about this. Perhaps we haven’t got the whole story, so it’s necessary to tread carefully. But on the face of it Joshua Sutcliffe, a Maths teacher in a Catholic school, made a YouTube video (at home) about false prophets. He specified Russell Brand, Joseph Smith (the founder of Mormonism), Charles Darwin, and Mohammed: “All these people bring destructive heresies which are against the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so they are false prophets,” he said, calmly and evangelically. Apparently, a Muslim parent saw the video and complained to the school, and Mr Sutcliffe was suspended for five days, and then dismissed. It isn’t clear how the suspension became summary dismissal: perhaps he was on probation; it isn’t clear. This is the account he gives:

You may find Mr Sutcliffe’s grasp of theology somewhat naive and some of his turns of phrase rather offensive: ‘LGBT mafia’ and ‘Islamic Mafia’ doesn’t suggest an openness to fraternal dialogue. He obviously doesn’t use such terms in the classroom, but he says in the video that the former got him kicked out of one school, and the latter got him kicked out of another. To be sacked once may be regarded as a misfortune; to be sacked twice looks like carelessness.

His first dismissal was apparently for ‘misgendering’ a pupil. The facts of the case are unclear, and there is some confusion about what precisely happened, but (on the face of it) he hadn’t been given any guidance about how to address the pupil in question, and addressed the class of girls, calling them girls, but one self-identified as a boy and complained to the headteacher about the ‘misgendering’.

There is something very odd…

But let’s set that incident aside, and consider his dismissal for calling Mohammed a false prophet. This is the video in question:

He warns that his message may be offensive to some, and expounds (sort of) calmly and evangelically why Mohammed is a false prophet, and why the fruit of Islam is not peace but division. You may find his grasp of the doctrine of Allah somewhat superficial, and he may be altogether too ‘fundamentalist’ for your nuanced theological tastes, but he’s a man of truth, he says, and he’s here to tell you what the Bible says about sin and repentance and the cross in order that you might come to know Jesus and find salvation. It’s hard to discern from this video any grounds for dismissal, especially from a Roman Catholic school, which apparently offered him a job in the wake of his dismissal for ‘misgendering’ a girl who self-identified as a boy.

The odd thing is that the proposition that Mohammed a false prophet is Catholic orthodoxy. Indeed, it is Christian and Jewish orthodoxy. Further, it is atheist and humanist orthodoxy. The matter was examined on this blog when the Dean of Westminster permitted him to be named in the succession of prophets in Westminster Abbey:

It may not be very PC or neighbourly or conducive to interfaith relations to say it, but Mohammed was a false prophet (Jer 14:14-16; 1Jn 4:1; Acts 4:12; 2Cor 11:3f). By rejecting the crucifixion and denying the resurrection of Christ (who is not the ‘Chosen One’), Islam espouses ‘another Jesus’, ‘another spirit’ and ‘another gospel’. They are and ought to remain free to proclaim their religiosity, however false and erroneous it may be. But not, please God, in The Collegiate Church of St Peter (aka Westminster Abbey), which is a Royal Peculiar of the Supreme Governor.

Is a schoolteacher no longer permitted to state this orthodox Christian view on his own YouTube channel and in his own time? Granted, it isn’t a sound basis for constructive ecumenical or interfaith dialogue; nor is it great for inter-religious amity, but Joshua Sutcliffe is a Maths teacher with no apparent academic qualification in religion or theology other than that he believes he has been called to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ which, for many, is qualification enough.

Are schoolteachers no longer permitted in their own time and in their own space to examine the impending crisis of universalism versus multiculturalism? What happened to freedom of religion?