Faith schools could get the power to sack homosexual teachers if new regulations proposed by the government are adopted, according to a leading union boss.
Department for Education dismisses the claims
NUT general secretary Doug McAvoy says the proposals would allow faith schools - which employ around 100,000 teachers - to get rid of staff on ground of sexual orientation and not because of any professional shortcoming.
The claim was dismissed by a spokesman at the Department for Education (DFES), who said a teacher could not be dismissed "solely on the grounds of their sexual orientation".
But Mr McAvoy said that the plans were in contradiction of earlier assurances from the government and are an attempt to water down protections afforded by an EU directive.
This is a false interpretation of the regulations - it is quite incorrect
Where a teacher's sexual orientation falls foul of a faith school's moral teaching then a decision could be taken to get rid of them, Mr McAvoy argues.
"The government is regulating for the sacking of teachers not on the basis of their professional capacity but because of their sexual orientation," he said.
"If this regulation passes into law and any member of the National Union of Teachers is discriminated against as a result, the union will have no hesitation in challenging the decision under human rights legislation."
The DFES spokesman said: "This is a false interpretation of the regulations - it is quite incorrect.
"There are no grounds for a school to dismiss a teacher solely because of their sexual orientation."
Mr McAvoy's comments came ahead of a meeting of the Parliamentary joint committee on statutory instruments on Tuesday where the proposed power to sack teachers at faith schools is to be looked at.
The union boss has written to committee chairman David Tredinnick saying that originally the government had said it would "in limited circumstances permit the different treatment of an employee on the ground of his or her religion or belief, but will not allow discrimination on another ground, such as sexual orientation.
"An organisation will not be able to justify dismissal of an employee simply because it discovers that he or she is gay or lesbian."
That pledge came in a letter to Mr McAvoy from minister Barbara Roche.
In his letter to Mr Tredinnick, Mr McAvoy said that new regulations had been since inserted further "reducing protection for employees".
He wrote: "This means that not only prospective employees but also existing employees could be legitimately discriminated against or dismissed on the basis of their religion or belief or sexual orientation.
"The exemption has also been widened to excuse employees from liability for discrimination where the employer is not satisfied that the employee or prospective employee meets the requirement of being of a particular religion or belief."