October 5th, 2011
01:53 PM ET

School tells girl wearing rosary violates dress code

An Omaha, Nebraska, sixth-grader was told she could not wear a necklace with a cross to school because the rosary has become an identifying symbol for gangs, CNN affiliate KETV reported.

Elizabeth Carey told KETV that wearing a rosary is an expression of her faith, but Fremont Public Schools says it is a violation of its dress code.

"I'm 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," Elizabeth told KETV.

Schools Superintendent Steve Sexton says the issue is about safety, not religion.

"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," 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,” he said.

Omaha’s Catholic Archdiocese is disappointed with the school's decision.

"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," Archdiocese Chancellor Rev. Joseph Taphorn told KETV.

The American Civil Liberties Union also has gotten involved.

"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,” Amy Miller, the legal director for the ACLU in Nebraska, told KETV,

"If the ACLU has another view, we will gladly listen to it, but the fact is one year ago we were alerted to the fact that wearing the rosary as jewelry had a gang affiliation,” Sexton said. “We took the position that we did after careful discussion with our attorneys."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Church and state • Nebraska • United States

soundoff (1,104 Responses)
  1. Lonneken Padavanog

    There are also so many video uploading web pages, and these also give facility for sharing their videos, however I think YouTube is the best.

    August 1, 2012 at 6:54 am |
  2. JesusisLord

    In Catholism, if it says that its not violating a law according to the cannon law, then why are people so worried about whether or not she is misusing it because she wants to be reminded of Christ and Mary. I could see if she said that she wanted to wear it to look hip or fashionably. She didnt. So, people need to stop being so quick to judge her for her freedom of speech, religion and whatever else. If the word says, it could be worn for spiritual purposes and God did not say nothing to her, then why should you? Its called MYOB. If she believes and want to wear spiritual accessories then so be it.

    This is so simple and people making a big deal out of this for no reason. Why is everyone trying to be a SPG? (spiritual police god)

    October 20, 2011 at 3:30 am |
  3. V3rlon

    Gang members wear shirts. Maybe Freemont Middle School should ban those as well. I think I saw a gang member in pants once. Let's rule those out. Deoderant? Sure why not? When are we going to quit giving away our RIGHTS by letting people with detestable behavior define what we can't do. Some crummy people are misusing this girl's symbol of her faith, and we want to punish HER for it? Can someone explain to me how punishing the innocent prevents crimes? Ever? In the entire history of our civilization? All this does is anger people until they finally rebel against something they deem intolerable. Would the school have been as quick to ban a Muslim symbol?

    October 10, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
  4. William Rodriguez

    The freedom of religion, expression and speech is one of our most basic rights that we have as Americans and should never be taken away for any reason. Twelve-year-old Elizabeth Cary in Nebraska has been denied this right which irks her, the Catholic Church, and anyone who truly believes in the first amendment. This first amendment gives us the right for our freedom to express ourselves freely and believe in whatever we choose to believe in. Not being able to wear something of a religious belief is a joke and is degrading to our country in what we stand for. First it’s the rosaries, next thing you know, the Jewish hats will be banned because “a gang wears it.” We must act now to stop this from spreading the banning of any sacred religious object so we don’t give the world the wrong message that our citizens are not given their liberty.

    October 10, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  5. Karm Borg

    It seems that only symbols of Christianity, especially of Catholicism are not acceptable.... why because they are not politically correct? But Jesus was never politically correct, He always called a spade, a spade. He also said that whoever does not witness to Him in his life, He will not be witnessing to him before his Father in heaven.
    If this was done to people of other faiths, they will be all... out protesting and asking for their rights... and they are right (and you people are so much proud of the First Amendment) but it doesn't matter if this is being done to Christians... they tend to stay quiet, or else they make a little noise and life goes on.
    Well done, Elizabeth, for being fearless in witnessing to Jesus and all He stands for.

    October 9, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • William Rodriguez

      Awesome response! 🙂

      October 10, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  6. Jeannie

    A rosary is instrument used for prayer. We as Catholics should not wear a rosary as jewerly.

    October 9, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • creepingtom

      True! It is not to be worn like that. Actually, the school made a good decision founded in Catholic belief and respect, they just don't realize it. Pretty ironic.

      October 9, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • William Rodriguez

      According the Canon 1171 of the Code of Canon Law. To wit: "Sacred objects, set aside for divine worship by dedication or blessing, are to be treated with reverence. They are not to be made over to secular or inappropriate use, even though they may belong to private persons."

      We can wear them if we respect them with reverence and showing the Love of Jesus Christ <3

      October 10, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • William Rodriguez

      Also, wearing a sacred object is not the same as using it in a secular or inappropriate manner. In fact, many religious congregations wear the rosary as part of their habit, usually hanging from a belt. There are also several historical cases of laypeople wearing the rosary for devotional purposes. For example, in his book "The Secret of the Rosary," St. Louis de Montfort illustrates the positive results of this practice in an episode from the life of King Alfonso VI of Galicia and Leon.

      October 10, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • William Rodriguez

      I think she may be using it as prayer occasionally and as a symbol of her Faith. She seems to be respecting the cannon law and sacred objects of our Faith to express the Love of Jesus Christ. <3 Many of the Clergy wear rosaries as she does to remind her of the blessed mother and Jesus Christ, just like wearing Scapulors.

      October 10, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  7. Kathy

    I am surprised that the parents would allow their daughter to misuse the rosary. The rosary is NOT A NECKLACE!! If they are a practicing Catholics they know that.She got the attention she wanted but not in the right way. Want to show your love of Jesus? There are plenty of other ways.

    October 9, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • William Rodriguez

      I understand your point and actually had the same viewpoint before, however; I have researched further and found that you are able to wear a rosary as long it's done with reverence according to cannon law.
      According the Canon 1171 of the Code of Canon Law. To wit: "Sacred objects, set aside for divine worship by dedication or blessing, are to be treated with reverence. They are not to be made over to secular or inappropriate use, even though they may belong to private persons."

      We can wear them if we respect them with reverence and showing the Love of Jesus Christ <3
      many religious congregations wear the rosary as part of their habit

      October 10, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  8. Yomi

    Imagine if it was a Muslim rosary being worn by a student? The same crowd shouting freedom of speech and religion will be demostrating in support of the ban. Religious signs have no place in schools. You have 20 hours to wear your religion on your sleeves after leaving school.

    October 9, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • Jane

      There are no laws that ban students from praying, wearing religious symbols, reading a bible or even teaching the bible in public school. The separation of church and state simply means that the staff can't require students to pray or follow a certain religious belief. It is most appropriate to practice ones civil rights in school and else where .

      October 9, 2011 at 9:06 am |
  9. Debbi

    I'm disappointed in CNN for either not investigating all the angles and/or not reporting them. I suspect the girl was NOT punished but simply told she could not wear the rosary as it could attract highly aggressive, possibly deadly, attention. So the school district was probably doing their best to safeguard their student. Had she continued to wear it with the district aware of the gang connection and harm had been done to her, I'm sure we'd be hearing about a lawsuit against the district for not safeguarding their students. Also, the rosary is meant as a catlyst for prayer, certainly NOT jewlery. It is heartbreaking that an important element of the Catholic faith has been used as a symbol of gang affiliation; but even more disturbing is the vilifying of a school system when the real culprit is the group of people in gangs that have intentionally chosen to use the rosary.

    October 9, 2011 at 8:54 am |
  10. Amberoni

    Anyone who went to a school that had gang problems understands exactly why the school had to change the dress code. Whether that girl knows about gangs or not that doesn't stop gang thugs from harassing her or attacking her for wearing what they see as a rival gang symbol. I live in Salt Lake City and believe it or not we have a large gang problem that has only grown in the last ten years since I was in middle school. A school in my area had to go so far as to limit the colors that kids were allowed to wear into the school. I do agree with religious freedom, but if it's going to get you killed for the wrong reasons, find another way to express your faith. Just as the girl in this story decided to do.

    October 9, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  11. jj227

    So now we have to argue about not just freedom of religion, but freedom of expression within that religion. It's not enough anymore to believe-you have to believe the right way or be condemned

    October 9, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  12. anjela

    Really CNN, can you honestly evaluate this story as in the public interest? The girl is obviously NOT Catholic as any Catholic knows a Rosary is NOT jewelry...as clearly noted by those that are not ignorant. Wearing a Rosary as jewelry is verging on abomination (to use a familiar Christian term).
    The fact that CNN is "MAKING A STORY" out of ignorant behavior clearly illustrates, again, the lack of integrity coming from modern cable "news". This story is core to the poisonous dialog that continues to be spewed in modern American culture and I wish someone in the CNN organization would snap out of it and take some grown up responsibility for preying on the ignorance of the American public to make a dime from advertisers willing to pay for hits on a website or clicks on the remote.
    Corporate America’s greed is alive and well....as this "STORY" clearly demonstrates. People, can't you see how you are being played? Your ignorance is being used to fill their pockets.

    October 9, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • Jane

      Yes Angela , Did anyone also tell you was it says in the bible about judgment? "Be careful how you judge another, for in the way you judge another so shall you be judged.'

      October 9, 2011 at 8:58 am |
    • William Rodriguez

      According the Canon 1171 of the Code of Canon Law. To wit: "Sacred objects, set aside for divine worship by dedication or blessing, are to be treated with reverence. They are not to be made over to secular or inappropriate use, even though they may belong to private persons."

      We can wear them if we respect them with reverence and showing the Love of Jesus Christ <3
      many religious congregations wear the rosary as part of their habit

      October 10, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  13. Naren

    I think parents and the girl are missing the point. The school principal is not saying that the girl is a gang member. She may be mistaken by the gangs in the area and she can be harmed by a rival gang. It is for her own safety!

    October 9, 2011 at 8:51 am |
  14. Josh

    This is so stupid, the rosary is not intended to be worn and is actually offensive when it is used as a fashion statement. They should not be allowed to wear them in schools, especially if the children wearing them can not even tell you what they are really for.

    October 9, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • Jane

      Josh, Remember FREEDOM? freedom of speech and religion. If you don't like it don't look at it. If you don't want to listen don't. But don't take someones liberties away. If we start with one group of people then where will it stop?

      October 9, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  15. Jane

    When do we stop giving up our civil liberties because of the actions of criminals. Benjamin Franklin said " Any one who would give up liberty for a little security deserves neither liberty nor security." I think the school district needs to be less reactive and more discerning.

    October 9, 2011 at 8:51 am |
  16. Michael

    If they see one of those necklaces, they may not care if she knows what a gang is,instinct is instinct training is training for any gang member. Thank who ever you want but they are just trying to keep her safe. If you have faith you don't need to show it with a trinket> it shows in your actions and the quality of person you share with the world... Hope you all have the day you know you deserve ...

    October 9, 2011 at 8:48 am |
    • Jane

      Our founding fathers never said it was going to be easy or safe to keep our liberties. Benjamin Franklin said "anyone who would give up liberty for a little security deserve neither liberty nor safety.

      October 9, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  17. Will

    well, I have not seen Yahoshua Messiyah, tell his followers to wear a "rosary" necklace in the bible.

    October 9, 2011 at 8:48 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.