Mark this day on your calendar as one to remember. The ACLU has actually issued a statement in which seems to be siding with the religious rights of a student and against the public school system that is violating those rights.
Freemont Public Schools in Omaha, Nebraska had been informed by police that some gangs in the area have started using the Catholic rosary as a gang sign. In an effort to thwart gang activity in the schools, the school board decided to ban the wearing of the rosary.
Elizabeth Carey, a sixth grader and devout Catholic was told that she had to remove her rosary necklace and not wear it any more to school. Elizabeth protested stating that she wears it as a sign of Jesus dying on the Cross for her sins, but the school board refuses to budge stating that it isn’t about religion but strictly about gangs.
Local Archdiocese Chancellor Rev. Joseph Taphorn told the local media that he doesn’t believe that Christians should have to forfeit the wearing of a symbol of their love for Christ because a small number of people have decided to use it inappropriately.
Amy Miller, the ACLU legal director for Nebraska stated, “We understand the serious concerns about gangs in schools, but Fremont Public Schools should demonstrate there is a concrete gang connection before shutting down a student’s free speech and religious rights.”
In response school superintendent Steve Sexton vows to uphold the schools policy and says that the decision was made with the school’s attorneys present and endorsement.
I would have to ask the school board to what extent do they intend to carry out the logic of their decision and how many other individual rights do they intend to trample on?
If they are to be consistent in their logic, then anything used by gangs could be banned from the public schools including white shirts and blue jeans, certain haircuts, a specific brand of shoes etc. What if a local gang was Muslim and wore traditional Muslim dress or carried out Muslim religious practices like bowing and praying 5 times a day? Would the school board be so quick to ban all Muslim forms of dress or worship?
Do they really believe that by infringing on the religious rights of all that they will actually make an impact on gang activities in the schools? Superintendent Sexton and the rest of the Fremont Public School board is a classic case of the old expression of throwing the baby out with the bath water.