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. LING

    Saints and popes have emphasized the meditative and contemplative elements of the rosary and provided specific teachings for how the rosary should be prayed, for instance the need for "focus, respect, reverence and purity of intention" during rosary recitations and contemplations

    October 6, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  2. LING

    The rosary is part of the Catholic veneration of Mary, which has been promoted by numerous popes, especially Leo XIII, known as "The Rosary Pope", who issued twelve encyclicals and five apostolic letters on the rosary and added the invocation Queen of the most Holy Rosary to the Litany of Loreto. Pope Pius V introduced the rosary into the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar as the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, celebrated on October 7. Most recently, on May 3, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI stated that the Rosary is experiencing a new springtime: "It is one of the most eloquent signs of love that the young generation nourish for Jesus and his Mother."[4] To Benedict XVI, the rosary is a meditation on all important moments of salvation history.[4] Before him, Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae[5] built on the "total Marian devotion" pioneered by Saint Louis de Montfort. Pope Pius XII and his successors actively promoted the veneration of the Virgin in Lourdes and Fatima, which is credited with a new resurgence of the rosary within the Catholic Church.[6]

    The theologian Romano Guardini defined the Roman Catholic emphasis on the rosary as "participation in the life of Mary, whose focus was Christ".[7] His statement echoed the view that in Roman Catholic Mariology the path to Christ is through Mary, with Mariology being inherent in Christology; a sentiment also expressed by saints such as Louis de Montfort who was a strong rosary advocate.[8][9] Pope Leo XIII also viewed the rosary as a vital means to participate in the life of Mary and to find the way to Christ (see the section on Rosary Pope below).[10]

    Many similar prayer practices exist in other Christian communities, each with its own set of prescribed prayers and its own form of prayer beads, such as the prayer rope in Eastern Orthodox Christianity. These other devotions and their associated beads are usually referred to as "chaplets". The rosary is sometimes used by other Christians, especially in Lutheranism, the Anglican Communion and the Old Catholic Church. Other Protestants, however, such as Baptists and Presbyterians, do not use it and actively discourage their members from using this method of prayer

    October 6, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • Lokomoko

      I like the renaissance popes, those guys were always having illegit kids with underage girls and poisoning each other or slaughtering each other's families women kids and all dont hate I'm only being real LOL.

      October 6, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
  3. Annoyance

    Lets say im in a gang and some strange guy with a cross neclace comes up into the ally, is the first that comes to mind Gang Member? No it's A- Garbage Man B- Hobo C- pedafile Not a gangster. >:(

    October 6, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
  4. jerseygirl

    This deserves a big "so what." If anything, a sincere christian girl wearing a cross just makes gangs look silly wearing it. What is the school afraid of exactly. It's not clear to me what is going to happen if she keeps wearing it. Gangs are going to burst into the school because she signaled to them through the school walls or is she rallying gangs inside the school. What crap.

    October 6, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  5. Ms. K

    You know, the Rosary is not jewelry. It's not meant to be worn as a necklace. The local diocese disappoints me with their lack of knowledge, and the girl's parents ought to know better as well.

    October 6, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • LING

      Exactly! It's not a necklace at all and you dont wear it for fashion or as an accessory. It's for prayer and protection.

      October 6, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
  6. NJBob

    All religious symbols should be banned from public schools. How would preachers like it if I wore my high school football uniform to mass?

    October 6, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • LING

      i dont think they would care as long as you went to church.

      October 6, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  7. Mark

    Wouldn't gang members finding god be a good thing?

    October 6, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • AMK

      Right, because religious people never turn violent!

      October 6, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  8. Bruce

    I think these christians must prove that jesus really existed first, and that he died the way the story goes. "Died for my sins," horse feathers, I don't believe in the immaculate conception, virgin birth, sins, heaven, hell, or satan. It's all an old myth retold by cjhistians, an antagonist/protagonist story. None of it is true!!!!

    October 6, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • Bruce

      Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, jesus; it's child abuse to teach lies to children!

      October 6, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • Aloisae

      Imaginative play is good for children though. The child abuse would be in stifling a child's creativity by not allowing them some make believe in their lives.

      October 6, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • jg

      I do respect your right, however there those of us who do believe.

      October 6, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • Annoyance

      ANTI CHRIST >:(

      October 6, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • ligaya

      Jesus is not merely a biblical or mythical figure. Jesus of Nazareth is a historical figure. Many Jewish and Roman historians had many accounts of Jesus of Nazareth. To name a few is Flavius Josephus, Philo Judaeus, Justus Tiberius among others, Please check these historical accounts of Jesus of Nazareth. Thank you. 🙂

      October 6, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • Igor

      It is plausible that there was an individual who, like many around that time spoke out in prophesises and against the corruption and impotence of the local religious ancient Hebrew leadership and that got him executed. The precise details may never be known, and it does seem strange that Roman records are silent about any such figure despite keeping meticulous records about executions of political figures, Then comes paul and as some view it co-opts the message for his own purposes. Jesus must be spinning in his grave.

      Ultimately, it is hard to get the precise story of people and evens transpired 200 years ago, but the historical Jesus certainly wasn't an albino carpenter as ultimately immortalized on that girls' necklace. Life goes on and the next guy who claims he is the second of comming of Jesus will be committed with minimal protesting from a few loyal adherents.

      October 6, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • DUH

      "Jesus is not merely a biblical or mythical figure. Jesus of Nazareth is a historical figure. "

      Uh Duh...so was Santa Claus but just like Jesus he got made into a mythical figure with beyond human powers. People like to embellish, which is what happened to both the stories of Saint Nicholas and Jesus. Doesn't mean the embellished stories are real or true.

      October 6, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
  9. ORGirl

    I'm curious about the quote, "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,". Last I checked, Jesus gave up HIS life for OUR sins. Seems this girl might do well to flash her signs less and read the good book more. Just sayin...

    October 6, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • Sandi J

      Where is her freedom of speech. If these symbols remind her of Christ, who are you to tell her different? It's her feelings her beliefs not what others think!

      October 6, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  10. Yoda

    A scared little people we have become,.... may the force be with you and stop hitting the panic button!

    October 6, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  11. Aloisae

    I'm disappointed with Omaha's Catholic Archdiocese's position and statement. A rosary is NOT a "cross necklace" to a Catholic. The rosary is a prayer cycle made up of twenty mysteries grouped in four series (joyful mysteries, mysteries of light, sorrowful mysteries, glorious mysteries). The physical item the girl was wearing is a prayer aid... it facilitates one reciting certain prayers in a certain order while contemplating these mysteries. To wear this item simply as a "cross necklace" rather than using it (or even wearing it) as a prayer aid for contemplating the mysteries of the rosary is a sign of great disrespect for the Catholic faith. While much of that is based on tradition rather than any direct decree, Pope John Paul II wrote an Apostolic Letter on the subject (Rosarium Virginis Mariae) confirming this in 2002.

    October 6, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • AMK

      ...and to non Christians, a cross is a device of torture and a symbol of how much the Roman empire hated Jews.

      October 6, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  12. Wisdom

    You can try as hard as you can to supress the message of Cross but you cannot!

    You can prevent this little girl from wearing a Cross to express her belief, you will never be able to take away the 'faith' from her.

    You go Elizabeth! As a sixth grader you have wisely understood the meaning of the Cross! God be with you!

    October 6, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • ComSenseWiz

      No need for me to stifle the message of the cross. It is easy to ignore. I'm more concerned with this girl's dysfunction and mental health. Is she getting treatment?

      October 6, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Are you really that stupid? You obviously have no understanding of this young girl or what her mental health is. Quit using your ignorance as a crutch.

      October 6, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • pirate

      Here, read up about your racist Jesus! Direct from the bible!

      Matthew 15:22 to 15:28

      15:22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.
      15:23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.
      15:24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
      15:25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.
      15:26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.
      15:27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.
      15:28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

      October 6, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • Wisdom

      Are u smarter than a 5th grader? doesn't look like it.

      October 6, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • Mark


      Here, read up about your racist Jesus! Direct from the bible! "

      Hey R-Tard you understand that Jesus didnt write the bible right? You also understand that not one part of that quote had anything to do with jesus right? You also understand Jesus is NOT god right? You also understand that god NEVER told anyone to write that book and in all it almost has NOTHING to do with what jesus did right?

      October 6, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • Ashton

      Yep,a brave little girl I should say,standing up for her belief.

      A pint sized Hero of faith indeed!!!!

      October 6, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • pirate

      Mark: OK, so for all the believers out there, from where, if not the bible, do you source your beliefs? You either believe in the bible or you don't. If you don't then the whole religion crumbles. If you do, you should read it better, as in many places Jeebus says god and I are one and the same.. And btw, the quote has everything to do with Jeebus, as he was the one that supposedly healed the Canaanite woman! Can't you read? How can this reference not have anything to do with Jeebus when Jeebus is quoted within said same reference?

      October 6, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      "If you don't then the whole religion crumbles."

      Incorrect. There is no reason why one must be a literalist.

      October 6, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
    • Kudos

      Bravo little girl!!! your faith is infectious!!!!

      October 6, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  13. mobetta

    guess if she'd been wearing a burqua that would have been all right. Once again, PC run amok.

    October 6, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • Annoyance

      I wear cross neclaces because I am religious, no beacause Im a ganster

      October 6, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  14. Lily

    At first I thought her religious freedom was being stifled, yet I'm wondering why she feels need to wear all
    three – bracelet, t-shirt and neclace at one time. Even nuns and priest don't wear that many crosses visibly.
    Her parents need to find out why.

    October 6, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • HellBent

      I'm guessing that if we saw the parents we'd probably find out why right away. 12 year-olds generally don't get such strong religious affiliations all on their own.

      October 6, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • UhYeaOk

      So? She has the freedom to express her beliefs whether you agree with them or not. The hates of the world have gone to a wild extreme in this country. What next, gang members wear ball caps so now no school students can wear ball caps? Give it time, the lefties will have everything banned soon.

      October 6, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  15. Lutheran

    wow so its really come to this! im behind this little girl all the way. Go Jesus!

    October 6, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • *frank*

      When phrasing goes wrong...

      October 6, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • HellBent

      @frank – +1

      October 6, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  16. *frank*

    Is this young lady an Oakland Raiders fan? I have my suspicions!

    October 6, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  17. aerowrench

    what if gangs begin glorifying pencils?

    October 6, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • Lutheran

      lol that made my day.

      October 6, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • ComSenseWiz

      Certainly don't have to worry about gangs and books being connected.

      October 6, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  18. Former Catholic

    Someone needs to tell that kid you are not supposed to wear a rosary. It is NOT a necklace.

    October 6, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • HellBent

      Again, I challenge anyone making this statement to actually state why – where in the catechism does it forbid this? I'm really quite curious because I can't find any official RCC stance on this. People just seem to say that they think it seems sacrilegious, or that someone told them they weren't supposed to.

      October 6, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • B-Man

      although you are correct i do believe the argument is the fact a "cross" was worn to school. Although i'm not a Catholic it is my understanding that they are only handled during times of worship and penance? I am, i think what they consider agnostic, in that i dont believe in heaven or hell. I do believe that every individual has a right to faith and it should not matter from person to person what failth or religion he or she believes. I also faill to see the argument of the old "seperation of church and state". It is apparent that the teacher scolding this child forgets the purpose of this supposed law? The purpose, if i may, is so that the church does not influence goverment laws. It appears this child wasnt influencing anyone and wore it for herself. So it begs the question: who cares?!! Its as bad as the teacher here in Colorado punishing students when they say "bless you" after a sneeze...see the lunacey...:-)

      October 6, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • mobetta

      Once again CNN totally blows at reporting – and excels at headline writing for the purpose of grabbing views. Read the article, stupid... it was just a necklace with a cross, not a rosary. Even if it was, so what.

      October 6, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • UhYeaOk

      That "kid" can wear what she wants, she doesn't need the school or the Catholic church to tell her where and when she can wear a cross or a rosary.

      October 6, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • Aloisae

      @ HellBent: I don't think the Catechism mentions this but there is an apostolic letter from John Paul II that does. While, obviously, this isn't an ex cathedra statement, very little of Catholic teachings are based on that degree of infallibility and an apostolic letter from a Pope is definitely intended as instructions to the entire Catholic Church.

      October 6, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • pirate

      Why does everyone in this country have the right to believe in nonsense? Freedom of religion = freedom to believe in fiction as if it were real! Why are children being taught this rubbish in the first place? As bad as teaching them 2 plus 2 is 7...

      October 6, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • Aloisae

      By the way, I didn't mean to imply that John Paul II said Catholics should never wear a rosary. What he did confirm is that to Catholics the physical item is a prayer aid to be used for contemplating the mysteries of the rosary and should not be worn simply as a piece of jewelry. The implication to me is that people could still wear a rosary without showing disrespect for the Catholic faith and those who hold that faith if they are using it to help them in meditation on this specific prayer cycle rather than simply as a cross necklace.

      October 6, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  19. Ozzi

    Then they should ban all religious items that are worn.

    October 6, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • UhYeaOk

      And we should ban stupid people such as yourself making rediculous statements in the comment section. Just how are you going to police that rule Ozzi? How will you be able to tell what is and isn't a religious emblem?

      October 6, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  20. KindaSorta

    School overreacted. As usual.

    October 6, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
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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.