Nebraska school tells girl to stop wearing rosary
New scandal is developing in America after the school authorities in Omaha, Nebraska told a 12-year-old girl to stop wearing a necklace with a cross to school. The decision was explained by the ban on rosaries which had become an identifying symbol for local gangs. A number of religious and civil rights organizations were not satisfied with this explanation, finding it ridiculous. The decision sparked countless heated on-line arguments. Some commentators even claim that the absurdity of the school’s ruling may be compared to the ban on Christian symbols in order to avoid “offending Muslims” issued by a number of European corporations and organizations. But while Religious groups keep ringing the bell, many believe that the very fact of wearing a rosary as a necklace contradicts basic Catholic traditions.
As KETV (a CNN affiliate) reported, Elizabeth Carey – a twelve-year-old sixth-grader - was told by the school administration not to wear the necklace with a cross. The incident could remain unnoticed by the media, but Elizabeth and her parents declared their strong intention to fight the authorities for the right to express their faith.
”The principal said I couldn’t wear my necklace at all because gangsters were wearing it,” said Elizabeth, who, according to her own words is usually attending classes “wearing a cross necklace, a cross T-shirt and a cross bracelet.” “I’m thinking of how Jesus died on the cross and how he gave up all his sins for us,” says the girl. While such strange obsession of a little girl with religion is a subject of a different argument, the fact remains the same. The spark started a fire, supported by numerous religious and civil rights organizations and, of course, omnipresent conservative media.
"I don't think Christians should have to forfeit what is the symbol for the love of Christ because a few people want to misuse that symbol," said Archdiocese Chancellor Rev. Joseph Taphorn. Reverend also described the inability of school authorities to distinquish a school-girl from a gang-member as ridiculous. 'We ought to be able to figure out whether she is really in a gang. And if she’s not, why would she be punished for what ought to be her right of religious freedom and religious expression?'
The American Civil Liberties Union also took the side of Elizabeth and her parents, questioning the creditability of the school officials to issue such bans.
"We understand the serious concerns about gangs in schools, - said Amy Miller, legal director for the ACLU in Nebraska. -“But Fremont Public Schools should demonstrate there is a concrete gang connection before shutting down a student's free speech and religious rights.”
While the civil rights advocates and clerics keep unleashing their outrage, one should also look at the reasons behind the school’s decision. And those are far from baseless.
"We had information from law enforcement that there were documented instances of gang activity in the area, and we had information that states that the rosary was being used as a symbol of gang affiliation," schools Superintendent Steve Sexton told KETV. - "There are those who want to make this an issue about religion when it's about a singular goal - to create a safe environment for our students”
Gangs remain a major problem for modern America. Even young age doesn’t keep children and teenagers from joining gangs and being mistakenly identified as gang members. One of numerous examples is a murder of a 16-year-old Deloney Matt, who was shot in 2004 by 20-year-old Lavelle Thornton. Thornton mistook his victim for a gang rival and got sentenced to life in prison. But the fact that church and media remain deaf to the school authorities’ arguments proves that the freedom of expression of religious beliefs turns out to be more important than common sense.