Silver Ring secrets
Exclusive by Penman & Sommerlad | Saturday, 21 July 2007 Source: Daily Mirror
WHEN 16-year-old Lydia Playfoot went to the High Court in a battle to wear a chastity ring to school, she won a wave of support among those concerned about the growing tide of underage sex and teen pregnancies.
The pretty teenager who turned up at court each day appeared articulate, independent and committed in her opposition to sex before marriage - as symbolised by the special silver ring on her finger.
But now it appears that she may be little more than a pawn in a desperate publicity campaign driven by her parents.
Lydia, who has since left the school in West Sussex that refused to allow her to wear the ring, happens to be the daughter of Phil and Heather Playfoot, the founders of a chastity campaign called the Silver Ring Thing, or SRT.
They present themselves as wholesome defenders of the nation's teenagers - blaming the "bombardment of sexual images" for rising rates of sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy.
But the Daily Mirror can reveal that one senior member of their organisation - which promotes "sexual purity" - is actually a lingerie model and ex-jailbird who lives with a man who is not her husband.
More disturbingly, the live-in boyfriend of SRT co-founder Denise Pfeiffer is a leading British National Party activist.
Pfeiffer is listed on the SRT website as a "media consultant" but she has also been described as its "assistant national director". The 37-year-old - who claims she's 27 - is a part-time model and bit-part TV actress who posted pictures of herself modeling underwear on a website.
The Daily Mirror tracked her down to the home in Leicester she shares with 46-year-old Clive Potter. He was the local BNP's parliamentary candidate in the last two elections. He is also president of the BNP's trade union Solidarity and the Christian Council Of Britain.
The right-wing CCB says it is "a front-line ministry for men only and not for women nor for the effeminate or sodomites". And though it claims to be open to all races, the council "especially" welcomes white British Christians.
Pfeiffer, meanwhile, has appeared as an extra in TV shows including Emmerdale, Crossroads and Dream Team, and claims her "playing age" is 18 to 35.
She also works as a freelance journalist and has previously published articles in a number of national newspapers, including the Daily Mirror. Her own website, celibrate.org, "celebrates celibacy".
A self-confessed obsessive Michael Jackson fan, she was jailed in 1994 for harassing the family of Jordy Chandler after he accused the singer of sexual abuse.
Pfeiffer was freed on £10,000 bail, paid by actress Lynn Redgrave, before receiving a suspended prison sentence. She said at the time: "If it weren't for Michael, I'd be asexual. Nobody else could compare."
DESCRIBING her experience in jail, the model, who was happy to pose in her bra and knickers, said: "I was strip-searched. To me, this was worse than a vicious beating because I have always been shy and self-conscious."
In 2001, Pfeiffer, then aged 31 but describing herself as a 25-year-old virgin, said: "Sex seems to be thrown at me everywhere I turn - whether it's in the magazines that I read, the films that I see or in the conversations I have with my friends.
"I'm just someone devoid of sexual desire and incapable of enjoying sensuous contact. I do worry about whether it will one day destroy my relationship with Clive."
She said the couple, who moved in together shortly after they met in 1999, shared a bed but did not have sex.
"Clive does try to go further than kissing sometimes but I can't bear it and we invariably end up arguing," she added.
Three years later, but still insisting she was 25, Pfeiffer became involved in the Silver Ring Thing and said: "I made a personal decision to abstain from sex before marriage 10 years ago, when I was 15."
Pfeiffer was among a group of "volunteers" who established the Silver Ring Thing in the UK in 2004. In America, the sexual abstinence movement is linked to the conservative right and received a boost in government funding under the Bush administration.
The American Silver Ring Thing claims to have won pledges from 25,000 teenagers and hopes to sign up two million by 2010.
Here, the UK version recently set up a company charging youngsters to attend abstinence courses.
The SRT decribes itself as "not-for-profit" on its website and insists that all profits will be re-invested into its abstinence programme.
But Silver Ring Thing (UK) Ltd is not registered at companies' house as a "company limited by guarantee". That is the normal way for a "not-for-profit" company to register, with trustees instead of directors and no shareholders. Instead, Silver Ring Thing (UK) Ltd is a normal "public limited company" and states as one of its objectives: "To carry on as a general commercial company."
The firm's sexual abstinence courses are run at seven locations around the UK and involve DVDs, study bibles, journals and charts. After completing the four-week course, youngsters are charged £10 for their rings, with a replacement costing £13.
Organisers also offer to put on special courses but ask for payment of at least £350, plus travel and accommodation expenses.
Alternatively, parents can buy the course pack for £40, plus £20 for each student. So far, Silver Ring Thing (UK) hasn't filed accounts, so it's unclear how much the firm has made from the operation.
Tellingly, the company was formed three days after the Playfoots announced they were considering legal action against Millais School, near their home in Horsham, West Sussex.
Their daughter Lydia, 16, began wearing her silver "purity ring" to school in 2004 but it declared that the rings were pieces of jewellery and breached its uniform policy. Lydia and 11 schoolmates were banned from wearing them. She, in turn, claimed that she was being denied her right to express her faith and won the backing of the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship to take her case to court.
Despite the fact that Lydia left the school after completing her GCSEs several weeks ago, the Playfoots pressed ahead with the case - one that generated international publicity for their company. This week, deputy High Court judge Michael Supperstone QC ruled against Lydia and in favour of the school.
He rejected the idea that the baubles are Christian symbols, saying: "Whatever the ring is intended to symbolise, it is a piece of jewellery." Lydia said it was a matter of deep regret that "I could not persuade the court to consider upholding the religious liberty of Christian people in the United Kingdom".
Her father Phil was ordered to pay £12,000 towards the school's legal costs and Lydia said that she's considering an appeal. But Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, praised the court's decision, saying: "The case was a manipulative attempt to impose a particular religious viewpoint on this school and, presumably, on other schools if this case had been won.
"Lydia's parents run the British chapter of the Silver Ring Thing and had a vested interest in being able to spread its message. Lydia had left the school and it did not infringe her freedom of religion."
When contacted by the Daily Mirror, Silver Ring Thing spokesman Andy Robinson said yesterday: "I don't wish to comment until I have seen the evidence. But I have spoken to Denise Pfeiffer and she denies that Clive Potter is her boyfriend."
He did not comment on her past as a lingerie model or on the time spent in a US jail, or on Potter's BNP links.
Ms Pfeiffer herself was unavailable for comment.