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. Willie 12345

    So much for the freedom to practice religion in America.

    October 7, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  2. person

    As much as I disagree with religion, only person she's harming is herself....."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," I'm sorry but that quote freaks me out. It's just so normal to wear things symbolizing a dead jew nailed to two 2x4s. Jesus is looking down and thinking "Ah...those make me think of good times". Part of what ropes people in and keeps them believing is the torture and the suffering. I mean if...ok I feel a ramble coming on so I'm stopping here.

    October 7, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • Catman

      I won’t speak for all Christians, but the torture and the suffering (of Jesus Christ) is not what “ropes” me in as you say. It’s the difference he made in my life that keeps me close to him.

      October 7, 2011 at 8:43 am |
  3. Doc Vestibule

    If she gets to wear a rosary, do Sikh students get to carry a Kirpan?
    If a kid wears a kilt, can they also sport a Sgian Dubh?

    October 7, 2011 at 8:23 am |
  4. memine

    Everyone who crys "freedom of religion" only means freedom of "their" religion. If I were a member of the Church of Satan would you be ok with me wearing a pentagram to your childs school? I think not. Religion is for the weak minded who need to follow something. Too bad nearly all religions are money and power based. Although I do think they could serve a purpose in this country..... take away their tax free status. That'll help with our economy. Oh and to the comment of "all good catholics know you shouldn't wear the rosary as jewelry" Shouldn't all good catholics know that molesting little boys is wrong too yet the very men they hold in such regard do it frequently but I guess a few hail marys and our fathers can remove that sin too.

    October 7, 2011 at 8:16 am |
    • Catman

      Another example of being closed-minded to other people's views and values. Very sad

      October 7, 2011 at 8:24 am |
    • memine

      No I am just tired of people trying to peddle their snakeoil like some kind of used-car salesman. I'd like to know how many have died in history in the name of religion. I just find it funny that all of religion is based on ancient fiction writings. I wonder if in 5000 years people will be worshipping Harry Potter afterall its got some of the same hocus pocus mumbo jumbo in it.

      October 7, 2011 at 8:34 am |
    • Catman

      When you say, “Religion is for the weak minded who need to follow something,” you have closed your mind to other reasons why people have faith. And an equal number of people have been murdered by atheist (read up on the purges of Joseph Stalin), so how is this just a ‘religion’ problem?

      Keep this in mind. Not all people who claim to be of some faith are in fact part of that faith. You will also have evil people in high places. That’s just a fact of life.

      BTW - You don't have to wait 5000 years. There are already those who do worship Harry Potter.

      October 7, 2011 at 8:55 am |
    • memine

      But does the publisher require 10% of their earnings?

      October 7, 2011 at 9:01 am |
    • Catman

      But does the publisher require 10% of whose earnings?

      October 7, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • memine

      Those who worship at the Church of Harry Potter.

      October 7, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • Catman

      I don't know, you would have to ask them.

      October 7, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  5. JiminTX

    Another example of an uneducated sheep following an outdated Mesopotamian sky deity.

    October 7, 2011 at 8:14 am |
  6. Randy

    If the quarterback of the football team wore a dress and high heels to class, would that be a violation of the dress code?

    October 7, 2011 at 8:03 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Maybe not a violation of the dress code, but if he did it in Omaha I'm sure he'd be beaten to a pulp by his hom.ophobic classmates.

      October 7, 2011 at 8:25 am |
  7. christain

    another excuse to remove God from our lives. More you remove God from our lives more we suffer economically and morally as a nation

    October 7, 2011 at 7:54 am |
    • Jimtanker

      The only thing that is suffering here is religious people, from delusions.

      October 7, 2011 at 7:56 am |
    • Anakaraya

      in my old school I wasn't allowed to wear malas (Buddhist beads) in school because it violated the dress code. So I understand what they are saying. It has nothing to do with the religion but that the girl violated the dress code. Pure and simple.

      October 7, 2011 at 8:01 am |
    • christain

      and you did the survey?
      Religions of the world require you to do things, or make you do things. Following Jesus is compeletely at your own free will.
      In other religions Man went to God, in christanity God came to man. If you don't agree there is no God stop using dollar bills, it has IN GOD we TRUST written on it. may you can use goats for exchange.

      October 7, 2011 at 8:06 am |
    • Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

      The value of money has nothing to do with what religious zealots decided to start putting on it in the '50s. Which was and still is illegal and it needs to go. And "God" has nothing to do with morals since I would contend you are way more moral than El, Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah, or whatever you want to call it.

      October 7, 2011 at 8:15 am |
    • Catman

      Personally, I think there are many ways to express your devotion to God without having to violate any dress codes, That said, I do see an attack on Christians and their values by people who are worse offenders than what they claim Christians are.

      Jimtanker, I said this before and I’ll say it again. You really do need to stop being so closed-minded if you plan to get anywhere in life. You seem to be suffering from a great deal of guilt and hate. I don’t know why this is, but perhaps you need to talk about it with a professional who can help you make sense of it. Respect for you begins with respecting other people’s values and idea’s.

      October 7, 2011 at 8:16 am |
    • nad

      Not only we suffer economically and morally but also we will loose the everlasting eternal life.

      October 7, 2011 at 8:25 am |
    • Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

      You can't loose something that you never had in the first place.

      October 7, 2011 at 8:32 am |
  8. gliese42

    Is this the middle east?

    October 7, 2011 at 7:47 am |
  9. bluesky

    The school has just ceded the Christian symbol of the cross to gang-bangers? Good job, school. What a no-win situation.

    October 7, 2011 at 7:33 am |
  10. C

    Kids in my ELEMENTARY school were not allowed to wear shirts w/the Virgin Mary on them bcuz gang bangers wore them. But the fact remains that both groups were Mexican and Catholic. Duh. If this was over a hijab there would be no problem, but people are very secretly anti-Christian these days.

    October 7, 2011 at 7:14 am |
    • nixliberals

      It has always been this way, just more openly these latter days. Judgement comes, and swiftly. All eyes will see Jesus coming again, sinners will hide for shame.

      October 7, 2011 at 7:26 am |
    • Muslim Female

      As a muslim I am highly disappointed in the school's decision. Freedom of religion is a right to all Americans, whether you are christian, jewish, muslim, etc. Kids should be allowed to wear a rosary, a cross, a yamaka, a hijab, etc.

      October 7, 2011 at 7:38 am |
    • Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

      Even if there was no gang affiliation religion has no place in public schools to begin with, it's decisive and destructive.

      October 7, 2011 at 8:17 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      "people are very secretly anti-Christian these days"

      Becuase if there's one group that has been held back throughout all of America's history, it is white Christians.
      Alas! Woe is the plight of the caucasian, land owning, married, white, church going male. The entire system is setup to keep him down and deny him and his family opportunities.

      October 7, 2011 at 8:37 am |
  11. Megan

    Yeah I am not Catholic but one of my co-workers is. She finds people wearing the rosary beads as a necklace highly offensive. I teach in a high school and it is used by gangs to show their affiliation. My co-worker also said that any true believer would never wear rosary beads. I think it's right that school banned the wearing of the beads (it doesn't sound like they outright wearing cross necklaces but the rosary beads). The rosary beads are not meant to be worn.

    October 7, 2011 at 7:13 am |
    • tibs

      I was brought up Catholic and what you said is correct. If you are truly religious, you would never wear the rosary as an accessory. That's why it was so shocking/offensive when Madonna wore them back in the 80s. I wonder if this girl even knows how to pray the rosary (i.e. what each of the beads represents).

      October 7, 2011 at 7:40 am |
    • brad

      This is true. I am a Chaplain in a Maximum Security Prison. I bring rosaries to the Catholic Prisoners that are black solid rosaries. We used to bring multi-colored rosaries. But we found that non-Catholic prisoners were wearing them around their necks to identify themselves as gang members. Since that time a rule went into effect that only Catholic prisoners can have rosaries and they can only clip them to their belts or carry them in their pockets. Now even the Catholic inmates will confront Non-Catholic inmates caught wearing rosaries around their necks and both the guards and the Catholic inmates will remove the rosaries (black or colored) from anyone who isn't Catholic as an inappropriate use of a Religious Symbol (it is only used in these cases as a "tag" to identify another gang member).

      October 7, 2011 at 8:07 am |
    • RobertC

      I pray the rosary frequently and make my own rosaries as a hobby. I would never wear one as a necklace. It is not appropriate. This is the first I have heard of it being used in a criminal connection, though.

      October 7, 2011 at 8:18 am |
  12. jimbo, st. louis mo

    My niece has the rosary on her iPod. I've already told her no one listens to prayers because there is no god.

    October 7, 2011 at 6:56 am |
    • christain

      That is your lack of understanding. Look around the universe, not what man did to the world

      October 7, 2011 at 7:56 am |
    • Jimtanker

      There is NO evidence that your god exists. If there was then there would be more believers.

      October 7, 2011 at 7:59 am |
  13. Reality

    There is often some controversy over the treatment of the Rosary beads themselves. Because they look very similar to a necklace, some owners wear them around their necks. This adornment is often offensive to true believers in the power of the prayer. It is not always improper to wear the Rosary as a necklace. The beads themselves are a symbol of faith. If one is wearing them as a proclamation of faith, the behavior is condoned. If one is wearing the beads simply as jewelry, they are doing a disservice to those of faith. Some Rosary beads are blessed by the Church. These beads should not be worn around the neck under any circu-mstances and should be used only in prayer."


    October 7, 2011 at 6:50 am |
  14. Mike

    Wearing a rosary makes about as much sense as wearing a salad bowl for a hat. It's not jewelry!

    October 7, 2011 at 6:20 am |
  15. Joe Zamecki

    Ban the burqa too! I'm as liberal as they come. Religious symbols of terror like these don't belong among the general public.

    October 7, 2011 at 6:20 am |
    • Muslim Female

      how is a burqa a symbol of terror? when did someone wearing a burqa terrorize u?

      October 7, 2011 at 7:39 am |
  16. Mobi

    The rosary is ban but the burka isnt? Try telling a muslim young lady that she cant wear her religous garb and the liberals will be up in arms. Tell a young catholic girl that she cant have a rosary and it's ok.

    October 7, 2011 at 6:16 am |
    • Rob

      burqa is cultural, not religious...

      October 7, 2011 at 7:31 am |
    • christain

      burqa is idiotic

      October 7, 2011 at 7:57 am |
    • RobertC

      So only "liberals" promote freedom of religious expression? Are you sure of that?

      October 7, 2011 at 8:20 am |
  17. Joe Zamecki

    As an ex-Catholic, I know that the rosary is not meant to be worn. It's not meant to be jewelry either. It IS a gang symbol, starting with gangs like the Catholic Church. Never forget the harm they're still doing to humanity. One evil, harmful gang is as good as another, except when a gang gets government approval, promotion and financing. THAT gang is worse.

    October 7, 2011 at 6:12 am |
  18. SixDegrees

    I'm certain that many of those griping about this incident were cheering France's burka ban.

    October 7, 2011 at 5:51 am |
  19. EuphoriCrest

    How terribly sad that a little girl is compelled to surround herself with symbols of some guy who was hideously tortured 2,000 years ago, Biblical stories should be rated X and children should not be exposed to them.

    October 7, 2011 at 3:46 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      All of the stories?

      What about the Slave narratives such as the works of Frederick Douglas, and the story of Uncle Tom's Cabin?

      Should we also shield them from stories of the Holocaust, the Native American details of the Trail of Tears?

      What about the assignations of Lincoln, JFK, Gandhi, Medger Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King?

      Anne Franks hiding with her family in that attic from the Nazis only to get caught and killed.... I guess that is out as well.

      A story of a man who was told that was tortured and died for their sins. A slave named Uncle Tom, who was tortured and beaten to death so that others may live.

      Seems that our kids will not get too much literature if you desire to exclude so many works of art.

      October 7, 2011 at 4:08 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Very well said.
      Historical prose is one of the best ways to communicate the past in an emotionally resonant way.
      Novels like To Kill a Mockingbird, which is based aroudn real events that transpired in the author's hometown when she was a child, paint a picture of the cultural climate that dry statistics simply cannot.
      Our stories have always been our species' best and most enduring link to the past.

      October 7, 2011 at 8:31 am |
  20. jewlock

    I'm pretty sure the last thing Jesus would want to see is something he was nailed too being carried around by kids......just saying.

    October 7, 2011 at 3:37 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      In the times of the Nazis the Jews were required to wear a yellow star of David on their clothes to show that they were Jews.

      The Gays and Lesbians had to wear pink triangles.

      Many of Klan men and similar used the "N"word easily falling off their lips ..... other day I heard a song or a remix that had the "N"word as almost the complete chorus.

      If it is uncomfortable to you then I can respect that but you should respect that maybe everyone does not feel the same as you do when it comes to symbols that define a group.

      October 7, 2011 at 4:13 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.