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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. NIck

    Catholics are the first Christians. And furthermore a Rosary is not a knecklace and shold not be worn around the kneck. A rosary with all 15 decades (complete form) couldnt be worn around the kneck so why should should a shortened version be. I also highly doubt the Lord would want you to wear a cross if it was going to cause confusion. As Christians, our faith is our own and we should share it with our actions, and use very few symbols or words. Tell her to carry it in her pocket...

    October 7, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • hippypoet

      first off there nick, a rosary is whorn while in prayer and only in prayer – which correct me if i'm wrong here but the whole separation between church and state made it so we no longer pray in schools right? so take the fuking thing out of her pocket and be done with it at school.

      October 7, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Actually, praying in school is a protected activity. Same as any speech.

      October 7, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  2. Daniel

    Her folks could always enroll her in Catholic school. Then she could wear a rosary and get smacked by a nun for sacrelige.

    October 7, 2011 at 10:51 am |
  3. Sweets

    " I think, They should Be worn!..i still do eventho its a dress codde!"
    but if they asked to take it off .. Say" Take Down that church thats across the school"
    they'll be speechless!///(Experance)

    October 7, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • hippypoet

      so your saying its ok to break to rules for religion?

      October 7, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  4. hippypoet

    whatever, let her break the rules and live the punishment like a good christian....didn't we used to feed her kind to lions, wheres my lion!

    October 7, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • Daniel

      BRING BACK THE LIONS!

      BRING BACK THE LIONS!

      October 7, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>"didn't we used to feed her kind to lions, wheres my lion!"

      I think your lion is the same place as all of gear from the Crusades and the inquisition. You know how expensive it is to store a torture rack 🙂

      October 7, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  5. penpall

    Freedom is being stifled... the school is meddling in trivial things. If gangs use the rosary to be identified with, then they're on the right path, I should say, as gangs would prefer not to be identified if they're up to something. I am Catholic and don't wear a rosaries as necklace myself.. but this is a schoolgirl and has to experience such a restriction from her school? Very unfriendly treatment...

    October 7, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  6. kard

    The same thing happened with the swastika which is "remains widely used in Indian religions, specifically in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, primarily as a sacred symbol of good luck" however, "following a brief surge of popularity in Western culture, the swastika was adopted as a symbol of the Nazi Party of Germany in 1920." That symbol was forever ruined in our Western society. I hope the same does not happen to the rosary.

    October 7, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • MarkinFL

      I suspect a local street gang in small town middle America is not going to have the same influence as Nazi Germany did.

      October 7, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  7. JT

    For those of you who keep saying the rosary is not a necklace, tell that to Madonna of the '80s. She made it fashionable as she writhed on the floor in an orgasm with it fully displayed. Girls everywhere started wearing them just for fashion.

    October 7, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • derp

      I know all the nuns who were beating my a ss as a kid wore them like a necklace.

      October 7, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  8. RubyGirl

    There are gangs in Omaha, Nebraska? Children of the Corn?

    October 7, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Pliny

      @RubyGirl – There are almost a million people living in the Omaha metro area. Sadly, we have gangs and associated gang violence.

      But your corn/lolthey'reallfarmers joke is really funny. So fresh, too. Seriously, nobody has ever heard a rural-America joke about a midwestern city. You should probably consider a career in comedy. I think your topical wit could really bring this troubled nation together.

      October 7, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • Jamie K

      @Pliny.... exactly. 🙂

      October 7, 2011 at 11:39 am |
  9. tonelok

    @derp
    High heels too.

    October 7, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • derp

      "No no no no, don't take em' off, leave em' on"

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

    I am anxiously awaiting the day that gangs start wearing women's bra's. So that they can then be considered a violation of the dress code.

    October 7, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • Truefax

      Chester?

      October 7, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • TheDude

      Pedophile much?

      October 7, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  11. tonelok

    @Blake
    #1) It's called punctuation. Use it to be coherent.
    #2) Once gangs can no longer use the rosary symbol for their own purposes, they will switch to something else, in which time it will be okay to wear them again.
    #3) They specifically said jewerly was the target, yet she was wearing a Cross shirt as well. She was allowed to wear the shirt with the cross, so what is the problem? Not like they said she can not wear any crosses at all.

    October 7, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @tonelok
      Glad to see some common sense put forth by he whose medina is both funky and cold.

      October 7, 2011 at 10:05 am |
  12. Jimtanker

    @ Catman:

    “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.“

    First of all, I don’t have any guilt or hate. I live a very good life and am a very happy person. I do hate the idiots that I have to drive besides on the freeway in the mornings though. You got me there. I have no respect for a person’s values or ideas if they come from an obviously flawed book of multiple guess that is strife with some of the worst horrors ever seen by man. All through history people have committed atrocities in the name of one god or another. Until we all wake up and realize that this is the only life, and planet, that we have we will not truly be free.

    October 7, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • Catman

      Sorry Jimtanker, but from all your posts that’s how you are coming across – right or wrong. Glad to hear you have a good life, so do I. But by suggesting any religious book is “flawed” is being closed-minded. People have also committed horrors and atrocities not in the name of God. And just because someone claims to be doing God’s work, or is a member of any faith, doesn’t make it so.

      You want people of faith to respect your rights and views while disrespecting ours. Do you see how flaw your thinking is or how you are coming across? .

      October 7, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • BRC

      @Catman,
      This is an open forum, and in the loosest deffinition of the word a setting for accademic discussion. Regardless of whatever anyone's belief system is, there are lots of elements of the Bible that can be sited for apparent inconsistency, innaccuracy, and though this one is personal opinion, enforcing questionable activities. There is nothing inherently disrespectfuly in pointing these parts fo the Bible out. If I say that the story of Genesis doesn't make chronological sense, and doesn't fit with much or all of the scientific knowledge that we currently have, there is nothing inherently disrespectful there. I have made an analysis, and put it out for review. Someone who feels otherwise is welcome to refute it.

      I can have respect for others and still call a book flawed if by my objective interpretation it is in fact flawed. I don't know exactly what tone/words Jim used in his discussion, so maybe something he said was disrespectful in some other way; but simply saying the Bible is flawed is not.

      October 7, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • Catman

      Let’s be clear here BRC. Jimtanker said, “no respect for a person’s values or ideas if they come from an obviously flawed book.” This is ‘not’ the same thing as you just said, which, BTW, I can respect. See the difference?

      October 7, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • BRC

      @Catman,
      While I tend to sort of agree with Jin's sentiment (I have mroe respect for a person's beliefs if they are thoughtfully formed, nto just taken from scripture), I agree that it can be said more tactfully.

      October 7, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • Catman

      BRC – not to belabor the point, but Jim has been writing comments to be offensive. Then he acts surprise when people respond in the same manner.

      Be that as it may, I didn’t come to my beliefs without thinking it out. A lot of what I believe came from scripture and real life. I do see where you’re coming from, for I’ve met people like you suggested who mindlessly follow someone carrying a bible in one hand and preaching parts that fit their ideas and agenda. Unfortunately, some of these people are well-known, TV covered organizations. That doesn’t mean all, or even most people of faith are like this.

      Anyway, hopefully we can agree to disagree on this matter.

      October 7, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • claybigsby

      "And just because someone claims to be doing God’s work, or is a member of any faith, doesn’t make it so. "

      Yes, now take this and apply it to the writers who claim they were writing the bible under the influence of god.

      October 7, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • Catman

      I happen to believe the disciples were under the influence of God when they wrote these books. If you want to believe otherwise than so be it. It doesn’t make you any more right than me.

      BTW - At one time I was a practicing atheist so my beliefs didn’t come from years of being “brainwashed” by religion as so many non-believers want to think.

      October 7, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      What the he!! is a practicing atheist? What were you practicing? If it was logic and rational thought then that was clearly not your strong suit.

      October 7, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • Catman

      LOL – are you really in a position to be preaching about using “logic and rational thought” MarkinFL based on what you’ve been posting?

      To clarify, what I meant by being a “practicing atheist” is doing what you have been doing. Attacking all religious views that differ from you beliefs/faith. And why use the word ‘hell’ if you don’t believe in such a place? Seems pointless and not really using ”logic or rational thinking” when trying to make your argument. 🙂

      October 7, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      "What the he!!" is a common expression pretty much devoid of any religious context. Much like "holy sh!t" is probably not considered a prayer.
      Amusing myself here is a pass-time, hardly a "practice". I do not actually have any interest in spreading some sort of atheistic belief system. Believe whatever you like, just don't ask others to pretend to respect it anymore than you respect their beliefs or lack thereof.
      And what, pray tell (<-- ooh look, he did it again), are you referring to when you impugn my logic and rational discourse? I certainly acknowledge some flippant and even silly remarks, but most of them are probably logical if perhaps occasionally sarcastic.

      October 7, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • Catman

      Newsflash MarkFL – POT CALLING THE KETTLE BLACK. Read your own words and learn. “Believe whatever you like, just don't ask others to pretend to respect it anymore than you respect their beliefs or lack thereof.”

      Now please take a chill pill. It’s only a message board for heaven sake. 🙂

      October 7, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      I do not recall asking religious folk to respect my views. Just don't try to control my life and I certainly will not try to control yours. I'm a pretty firm believer in personal freedom and that includes believing whatever you like. But your freedom ends where mine begins and vice versa.
      You are free to say or believe anything you like about yours or anyone else's religion or lack of religion. And they are free to respond.
      As you say, its just a blog.

      October 7, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Catman

      “Just don't try to control my life and I certainly will not try to control you” – Sounds reasonable to me.

      “I'm a pretty firm believer in personal freedom and that includes believing whatever you like. But your freedom ends where mine begins and vice versa” – Which is also what I believe and been practicing here

      ” You are free to say or believe anything you like about yours or anyone else's religion or lack of religion. And they are free to respond.”

      No issue or arguments with anything you’ve said. So we will agree to disagree, which is how it should aways be.

      October 7, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Works for me. Many would agree that I've been disagreeable for years!

      October 7, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • Catman

      LOL - you're not one they say that about.

      October 7, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  13. Blake

    Yall who do not believe that is your perogative however you are losing sight of the real issue her rights to freedom of religion as well as expression are being stepped on all reality is anything now a days could be directly affliated with gang activity because their styles cover dang near everything and if you want to know the truth this young girl was in no means in the wrong and i dont see the danger in her wearing a rosary because even if the school stops them from expressing their gang affliation in school that does not keep them from still participating in the activity at hand and to think it could is ignorance

    October 7, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • BRC

      I posted this below, but it works here too, so here's a refresher. There are intricacies to consttutional law that you're ignoring. The First Amendment provides the freedom to PRACTICE one's religion, and freedom of expression, as long as that expression does not affect public safety. If gangs in the area are using the wearing of a rosary as an identifier, and rival gangs have been known to react with violence, then that expression could risk the safety of others, and can be restricted (they don't say you can't say you love Jesus, they say you can't wear a rosary). Since there is no religion (I know of) that REQUIRES wearing a rosary (in fact it seems the only religion to specific address it forbids it), they are not infringing on the girls ability to practice her religion either. It's big brother-ish, and it is restrictive, but nothing the school is doing is illegal or unconsttutional.

      October 7, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • hippo

      you are correct sir.

      October 7, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • myweightinwords

      To add to what BRC said, she is not being restricted from wearing her shirts with the cross on them and what not. Just the rosary.

      If the school was restricting the expression of her faith, they would disallow ANYTHING with religious symbols, not just the rosary.

      October 7, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • Juan Arango

      Look at it this way: If a gang started to use American flag buttons, or Elephant/Donkey buttons as their "affiliation symbol", would those also be declared in violation of dress code?

      October 7, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • BRC

      @Juan,
      If local law enforcement found a correlation bewtween either of those symbols and gang/criminal violence then they absolutely could.

      October 7, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  14. Mike from Kentucky

    A sixth grader thinking about "Jesus dying on the cross for our sins" is terrifying. You're 12, enjoy your ever dwindling childhood years and forget about crap like religion and politics!

    Aside from that, the school is being ridiculous. "Gang" symbolism is an arbitrary issue, if a group of kids wanted to all wear green to represent something they decided on would be considered a "gang"? This "gang" nonsense is absurd on so many levels, aside from the fact that you are letting the fear of something unknown oppress those who have had nothing to do with it. It's authoritative BS.

    Still though, that Jesus stuff that kid said makes me very sad.

    October 7, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • claybigsby

      Exactly...you are from Kentucky and probably have no idea how gangs operate. You wouldnt be saying this if the story was of this girl getting brutally murdered for wearing the rosery because gang members thought she was in a rival gang.

      October 7, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Clay,
      And this sort of thing happens how often? I would assume it is a pretty common outcome if you are going to limit a couple of 1st amendment rights over it. I mean this is docu.mented that such problems are likely to happen, right?

      October 7, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  15. LovesIrony

    This is happening in Fremont Nebraska NOT Omaha! We also have an immigration ordinance the ACLU is suing over.

    October 7, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • Jamie K

      Actually, OPS, Millard, Westide and Papillion all have similiar rules.

      October 7, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  16. hippo

    i never stated what i believe. so i am not broadcasting. ( if it is me who you are referring to)

    October 7, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  17. adamthefirst

    Was the girl wearing this cross a gang member, even though it's Sacreiegious to wear one. Either way she's screwed.

    October 7, 2011 at 9:06 am |
  18. Justin

    And rosaries aren't for wear anyway; they're meant for prayer.

    October 7, 2011 at 9:00 am |
  19. AmazonX

    I'm a Catholic, and I learned it's a sin to wear a rosary. They're for praying, not fashion. They're blessed by a priest. So, if she's wearing it, it's disrespectful.

    October 7, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • adamthefirst

      It's Sacrelegious.

      October 7, 2011 at 9:03 am |
    • Freedom of Religion

      You are missing the point. Who cares whether Catholic tradition permits the rosary to be worn? That is between the girl and her priest. It is not between the girl and her public school. If this is how she wants to express her religious views, then she should be allowed to do so whether it is consistent with your views or not.

      October 7, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • BRC

      @Freedom of Religion,
      Not so. There are intricacies to consttutional law that you're ignoring. The First Amendment provides the freedom to PRACTICE one's religion, and freedom of expression, as long as that expression does not affect public safety. If gangs in the area are using the wearing of a rosary as an identifier, and rival gangs have been known to react with violence, then that expression could risk the safety of others, and can be restricted (they don't say you can't say you love Jesus, they say you can't wear a rosary). Since there is no religion (I know of) that REQUIRES wearing a rosary (in fact it seems the only religion to specific address it forbids it), they are not infringing on the girls ability to practice her religion either. It's big brother-ish, and it is restrictive, but nothing the school is doing is illegal or unconsttutional.

      October 7, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • Juan Arango

      Absolutely incorrect. Wearing the Rosary is not forbidden. Wearing it for fashion may be, wearing it to display your devotion is not.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosary
      "Many religious orders wear the rosary as part of their habit. A rosary hanging from the belt often forms part of the Carthusian habit."

      October 7, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • BRC

      @Juan, fair enough, but even then it's an optional display, not a requirement, so they're still not infringing on any rights.

      October 7, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Since when does a person's religious expression require the blessing of an established church? Churches are merely a form of religious expression, not a requirement. Her need to wear the Rosary as a sign of her devotion to her savior is at least as legitimate as some Church claiming it is not.
      Frankly, its all a lot of hocus pocus, so when all the churches can agree on say maybe even one thing perhaps they can pretend to have some kind of authority over an individual's religious life. Until then the 1st Amendment says that no one is subject to any other person or insti.tution when it comes to their religion.

      October 7, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • BRC

      @MarkinFL,
      True, if this girl and her family do have a personal religious belief that differs from most of the mainstream christian sects and they believe that wearing the rosary is REQUIRED, then they would have a case that the school was supressiong their freedom to practice their religion (though it doesn't read that way). The point I was making is that there is a differnce bewtween an expression fo faith, and a tenant of one's faith, and they have different levels of protection.

      October 7, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Frankly, I have a problem with limiting an expression of anything that does not create a disruption. Even if she just thinks they are pretty beads. I really do not care about anyone's religion. Just their right to practice it in a way that does not harm the public.
      Is there any ACTUAL evidence that wearing them is likely to lead to violence. Or is this all the fevered imagination of clueless administrators?

      October 7, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • claybigsby

      "You are missing the point. Who cares whether Catholic tradition permits the rosary to be worn? That is between the girl and her priest. It is not between the girl and her public school. If this is how she wants to express her religious views, then she should be allowed to do so whether it is consistent with your views or not."

      so when she is stabbed in school for wearing it, dont blame the public schools.

      October 7, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  20. hippo

    dress codes are dumb. and dont wear a rosary. wear a normal cross if you going to throw a fit about it. i dont see what the difference is. a cross is a cross, right? i dont know enough about the Christians to know if that is right or wrong. it just makes sense to me. but also i dont understand the need to broadcast your belief to the world.

    October 7, 2011 at 8:48 am |
    • Justin

      Rosaries are more of a Catholic tradition/practice; I don't know any Protestants who wear one.

      October 7, 2011 at 8:59 am |
    • Will

      Says the person broadcasting their beliefs on CNN.

      October 7, 2011 at 9:04 am |
    • True Story

      I think you'll find Catholics and Christians to be a good bit different. The rosary is definitely Catholic which tends to be a lot more strict in nature.

      October 7, 2011 at 9:16 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Catholics ARE Christians.

      October 7, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • kake79

      The article and commenters here seem to be confusing a cross, a crucifix, and a rosary. A cross is a non-Catholic Christian symbol. The crucifix is a Catholic (and Orthodox) Christian thing that depicts Christ on the cross. A rosary is also a Catholic Christian thing that consists of a string of prayer beads and a crucifix.

      October 7, 2011 at 11:02 am |
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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.