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. W. BROWN

    If you stop her from wearing it because of the separation of church and state is one thing. But unless you prohibit jewelry I don't think you should be able to stop someone from wearing it. It has nothing to do with whether it is condoned by the church, whether it is in the bible...It is her and her parents decision to wear something that is legally sold.

    October 9, 2011 at 8:47 am |
    • Darrell Madore

      Because something is legal to buy doesn't make it "ok" to wear everywhere. Give me a break. I could buy a shirt de-nouncing Islam for example, should I wear that? Should I be able to walk into a mosque wearing it? Of course not. Your argument is invalid my friend.

      October 9, 2011 at 8:51 am |
  2. Darrell Madore

    Someone teach her and her parents what the rosary is for! It's for prayer, not to show your religion. They obviously aren't the religious people they claim otherwise they would know that. Suck it up girl and learn the religion you proclaim to love.

    October 9, 2011 at 8:46 am |
  3. Danielle

    Well I do agree that one should be allowed to freely express their religious belief. But, its school and I can see why they won't allow her to wear it. Afterall a Rosary is not jewelry. If she really wants to express her faith go out and buy a silver, beaded, or gold necklace of the cross then the school wont have a problem with her wearing it. Don't fight with the school over that. She should just accept it. ' When in Rome do what the Romans do.'

    October 9, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  4. jaf

    Are muslims allowed to wear the hajib in these schools?

    October 9, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  5. Emily

    Give me a break...lol! She needs to follow the same rules and dress codes enforced by the school. No hats, no short skirts, NO ROSARY! Just because its a religious symbol you all are making a big stink about it. The same rules apply to EVERYONE...so don't feel sorry that this little girl can't wear her rosary...

    October 9, 2011 at 8:44 am |
  6. enrique

    mm that is not of a gang that is ahhh maybe the school is scared about the gang stuff but in mexico medium classs people wear that so good bless them in every time read the bible on catholic

    October 9, 2011 at 8:42 am |
  7. Matthew Johnson

    After seeing this in the morning 'news'. Ok one is she even Catholic? Doesn't appear to be, and I in my goth days in the 80's got alot of flack for wearing a Rosary as a 'fashion' accessory, how this is even news worthy is beyond me.

    October 9, 2011 at 8:42 am |
    • KIC

      Adding: She could simply wear a cross necklace that is more appropriate.

      October 9, 2011 at 8:43 am |
  8. EB

    I spent a bajillions years in (Roman) Catholic School. Rosaries are not jewelry. They are not meant to be worn. They are not a symbol of the proclamation of one's faith. They are instruments of prayer. I see a lot of people (usually young) wearing rosaries on their necks, and I wonder if they use them properly – to pray – to guide one in their prayers. Each element on the rosary has a purpose, and wearing a rosary is not one of the purposes.

    October 9, 2011 at 4:04 am |
    • Facts Reveal

      You know what EB I can tell how ignorant are you regarding the scriptures.There is no statement in the scriptures that when we pray we have to use the Rosary or whatsoever related to it.

      October 9, 2011 at 5:11 am |
    • nepawoods

      He never said it was in the Bible, so your conclusion is baseless.

      October 9, 2011 at 6:44 am |
    • KIC

      I went to Catholic school too and no one ever wore rosaries except the nuns (some of them). Really think she doesn't need to be wearing it.

      October 9, 2011 at 8:42 am |
  9. severinus

    I was raised Catholic, and the Rosary is not a necklace, it is not an article of clothing. It is disrespectful to wear one to school.

    October 8, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      A sixth grader dude,... that might have been raised differently than you. I could see your claim of disrespect if she was an adult but a kid who is probably still watching the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon I do not think should be held to the same standard.

      October 9, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • Facts Reveal

      Ah,good idea...I tell you what severinus...jesus died on the cross and perhaps some of you or maybe one of your friend wear a cross around her/his neck,do you really comprehend what cross really is?

      October 9, 2011 at 5:33 am |
  10. Ben

    I'm Jewish and Jews have not been allowed to wear the star of David in school for 20 years as it is also a gang symbol. I had a friend suspended because he refused to take it off (which was later repealed when it was determined he actually was Jewish.) Welcome to the real world Christianity.

    October 8, 2011 at 2:28 am |
  11. 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 5:19 pm |
    • .........

      plz hit report abuse on all reality garbage

      October 7, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
    • BorisMorris

      ......... is waging a losing war. Reality's posts are great. Carry on, Reality.

      October 8, 2011 at 11:51 am |
  12. jesus whors

    ah another follower of mine...good!

    October 7, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  13. MaybeAgnosticMaybeNot

    The rosary is not what gets someone into heaven. It's just a material thing. Some pople are too attached to material things. And people of all beliefs have some strange desire to feel persecuted. They're just not happy until they can make up some reason they are being discriminated against. I'm sure this girl thinks when she gets to heaven, Jesus will high five her and say,"YEAH, stick it to the man!"

    October 7, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      I would, if I were Jesus.

      October 7, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • Catman

      I believe you of all people have hit the nail on the head.

      October 7, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • will

      So you think you know the mind of God? This is how this girl worships God. Between her and God. Not you.

      October 7, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
  14. bongobilly

    No, the arrticle states its a rosary, and with beads it hard to mistake Wearing a rosary would be a violation of Carholic school dress codes, as well, because it is not jewelry. She obviously us not Catholic, as she ignorantly uses it the wrong way, and so what religion is she advocating that uses a rosary the wrong way? The answer is none. Furthermore, I doubt she is any kind of Christian at all, when she says, again displaying total ignorance of ANY known religion, that Jesus "gave up his sins for us"! This girl is a phony.

    October 7, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • Mike

      Thank you! A catholic should know better than to wear a rosary as a necklace. It is not a necklace, it is a tool for prayer.

      October 7, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • Catman

      Maybe uninformed or mistaken, but that hardly makes her a phony.

      October 7, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Darrell Madore

      Couldn't agree more! Learn the religion.

      October 9, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  15. bobalu

    Wearing something to symbolize christianity is fine. But I want my kid to have the right to wear a F-JESUS shirt to school as well.

    October 7, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • ski2exs

      That's why I dress mine in shirts with Calvin peeing on Dawkins.

      October 7, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • Tom Cruise

      Ski2exs, that's too funny!

      October 7, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • bongobilly

      And why my child wore a picture of Dawkins peeing on Jesus!
      At least we have evidence that Dawkins is not a purely mythological invention, and his followers haven't murdered hundreds of thousands in his name!

      October 7, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Catman

      Read up on the purges of Joseph Stalin for starters.

      October 7, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      peeing is believing?

      October 7, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • bongobilly

      Yes, Catman, Christians are right up there with Stalin! How does make you feel?

      October 7, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Catman

      Truthfully bongobilly, it doesn’t make me feel good. It’s sad that people have been killed and hurt others in “God’s name”. It really is and I mean that!

      But as I stated, just as many people have been killed by non-believers/atheist. So this is NOT a Christian problem, or any other faith for that matter. This is a human problem. So please stop pointing your finger trying to make yourself feel better about your own beliefs. If you want to state facts, be truthful.

      October 7, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • bongobilly

      The truth is, Catman, that it is a problem with humans – humans who believe Jesus is some kind of God, and any heinous action – even torture and murder – can be justified by this belief. It is exactly the same as justifying murder because of some political belief, whether communism or fascism. It is not a basic flaw in humans, only humans who are psychopaths or who mindlessly believe that religious and political dogmas trump common sense and altruism. Religion – especially Christianity – depends on suspending reason and common sense, in order just to accept it's basic tenets, so those followers are especially well prepared to commit irrational acts – even murdering tens of thousands at a time – if the sheep are urged on by their shepherd.
      And ad far as beliefs go, I believe nothing for which there isn't clear evidence.

      October 7, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • Catman

      I know of no Christian organization that believes torture and/or murder are acceptable behavior. Jesus basic message is to love your neighbor as you love yourself. That’s Christianity in a nutshell. No one I know of today is preaching murder in the name of God/Jesus. So I don’t know where the basis of your statement comes from.

      The truth is anyone, those who think God is real and those who think God if a fairytale, can be made to believe they are justified doing something heinous against another human being. Even an atheist can be made to believe killing Christian is acceptable for the good of the human. If you don’t believe me read some of the posts on this board directed at Christians.

      “Religion – especially Christianity – depends on suspending reason and common sense, in order just to accept it's basic tenets,”

      That’s your belief Bongobilly, not mine. I accept the fact you believe that, and can even understand why you do. As for me, following the message of Jesus Christ and living like him is the only reasonable and common sense thing to do in a world that has gone mad. This is coming from someone (me) who was an atheist and denied vividly there was a God.

      As for your statement if Jesus really exist; do an internet search on Jesus being a real person. You might be surprise at the evidence that supports he was real and not “purely mythological invention” as you put it.

      Anyway, enough talk. Hockey season starts tonight and I’m looking forward to it. Peace

      October 7, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
  16. bobalu

    There are 2 fair ways to approach this.
    1. Adopt school uniforms.
    2. Let the kids wear whatever they want whether they are in gangs or not. Gangs use all kinds of symbols. Are we gonna ban kids from wearing blue or red because the bloods and cripts do?

    October 7, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • Catman

      Unfortunately, with the economy in the tank, most people could not afford school uniforms – at least not in my area. Most families are having problems feeding their kids. That doesn’t mean schools don’t have a dress code. But most are meant to make sure kids are covering their bodies. .

      October 7, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  17. midevil lunch time.

    i say we tie her @ss to a post and burn her like a witch! or maybe have super hungry lions eat her flesh like the christians of old. or we could dunk her in water untill she admitts fault, then burn her! these are just ideas, please feel free to add. 🙂

    October 7, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Tom Cruise

      So your position is, we should torture and kill children for what they wear.

      October 7, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  18. Jamie K

    This is from a news article back in 2010:


    They have a point, according to gang experts. After schools began banning gang-related bandanas, clothing, and hairstyles about a decade ago, students have turned to rosaries as a subtle and often First-Amendment-protected way to signal gang allegiance.

    “With the introduction of strict dress codes and the use of uniforms in the school systems, these type of indicators seem to be favored by the gangsters,” the San Antonio (Texas) Police Department says in a handbook about gang awareness.

    Gangsters not only wear certain colors—reds for Bloods, blues for Crips, for example—they also arrange the beads to signal their rank in the gang, and teach young members to plead religious freedom if they’re hauled into the principal’s office, said Jared Lewis, a former police officer in California who worked in public schools.

    “You are often dealing with gang members who have no inkling or cares about the religious significance of the rosary beads,” said Lewis, who now runs Know Gangs, a training group for law enforcement officials. “They are just trying to skirt around school rules under the guise of a religious symbol.”

    No one is sure which gang started the trend of wearing rosaries, said Robert Walker, a former head of the gang identification unit for the South Carolina Department of Corrections. Like a lot of gang fads, he said, it likely started in California and migrated east.

    “One gang started it—who it was, nobody knows. Another gang saw it and thought it was cool, and started using it, too,” Walker said. “These things just evolve.”

    Their adornment by violent gangs is an ironic twist for beads whose use in prayer is praised by Christians, including Pope Benedict XVI, as a means to access contemplative calm. (The word “bead” is derived from the Anglo-Saxon term for prayer, “bede.”)

    Legend has it that the Virgin Mary presented St. Dominic with the first rosary in the 13th century, though some scholars doubt that story because elements of the prayers predate and postdate Dominic.

    In Christian parlance, the “Rosary” refers to a sequence of prayers and meditations on the life of Jesus, though the word is often used outside the church to refer to the circlet of beads as well.

    Each of the beads (usually 59 or 169) represents a prayer—a Hail Mary, Our Father, or Glory Be—and is grouped in sets of 10 with a crucifix hanging from a pendant. The beads help mark which prayers have been recited and guide the supplicant through the life of Jesus.

    Now cherished by many Christians, rosaries fell out of favor among Protestants because the Roman Catholic Church used them to promote indulgences—papal dispensation from time in purgatory. After the Reformation, the beads became a defiant emblem for Catholic monks and nuns to wear outside their habits and a tactile tool for missionaries to pass on the faith—particularly in Latin America.

    Now, Latino gangsters are the most frequent—and creative—wearers of rosaries, said Lewis. The Latin Kings, for example, use colors to signal members’ rank in the hierarchy—five black and five gold beads for members; two gold beads for top dogs. Assassins wear all black.

    The Netas, an East Coast gang founded in Puerto Rico, wear 78 red, white and blue beads to symbolize the 78 towns in Puerto Rico. Prospective members wear all white beads until they join the gang.

    Lewis said he sympathizes with principals who are torn between respecting religious rights and preventing gang wars in their schools.

    “We live in a country where, obviously, people should be able to do and say what they want,” he said. “At the same time, if something happens on school grounds, the school principal is going to be held liable for not keeping students safe.”

    October 7, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • Jamie K

      So apparently there IS an issue with gangs using rosaries or rosary beads and there has been for some time now. Fremont Public Schools is not the first to adopt such a policy.

      October 7, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • BRC

      And that's Jenga

      October 7, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • Ogre

      If this little girl is so bold as to take on the school administration, she should take her gripe to where it belongs. She should attend gang meetings and whine to them about their using a religious appurtenance as a symbol of their abominable, disgusting nonsense.

      October 7, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  19. Reality Check

    This is neither a trivial matter nor a safety issue. It is another step in furtherance of the an agenda item of modern education since Thomas Dewey to bleach any and all religion from children in public schools. And its working – just look at the heinous things children are now doing. Good job educators.

    October 7, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Wow, how completely clueless can one person be?

      October 7, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • Karen StJ

      I'm not religious, but I agree that any child should be able to wear religious symbols, of ANY faith. Wearing a rosary is poor form, from a Catholic point of view (they are NOT jewelry to be worn) but I don't think the child knew this, and even if she did, it would be none of the school's business. I do think that no religion should be allowed to overshadow any other faith, which is where much of the controversy has centered.

      October 7, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • ski2exs

      Wow Markin, . . .that kind of begs the question, how clueless do you have to be to not see the degradation of the public schools over the past 50 years. Now, during that time (other than the hand in hand idea that children don't need correction), what else has changed? The way they teach math?

      October 7, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • MarkinFL

      The degradation comes from a lack of community support and mainly the useless parents. If the parents do not believe enough in education and/or do not support discipline then there is little a teacher can do.

      October 7, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • Jamie K

      Except that they're allowing her to continue weraing her cross bracelet, cross t-shirts, and crucifix chain necklaces. Just not this rosary because of their dress code policies. They are not attacking her faith or pursuing an agenda.

      October 7, 2011 at 11:25 am |
  20. JakeDog

    Some one needs to look in to the "information" that gangs are using this as thier symobol, sounds a bit retarded. can't imagine a bad ass gang usig the cross to brand thier hard core gang. In Omaha to boot. Looks like some is blowing smoke at the cops. Or maybe some anti religous detective wants to read it that way.

    October 7, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • MarkinFL

      I heard of a couple of rival gangs in Washington D.C. that use donkeys and elephants as their gang symbols. I'm not sure what the significance is though it may represent the amount of cr@p they can generate. Both are pretty good at, the donkeys do it frequently but the elephants seem to generate much huger piles when they do.

      October 7, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • bongobilly

      Rosaries are NOT TO BE WORN! Only Catholics use them, and they are held in the hands during prayer. Is she even Catholic? What this girl is doing is modeled on how GANGS use rosaries! And to intentionally use it the wrong way shows she is ignorant, and is perhaps trying to pass it off as "free speech" to make it so other gang members can wear them in school.

      October 7, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • Bob

      I'm wondering if it was a rosary. The story said the girl wore a cross on a necklace, but it was not allowed because rosaries can;t be worn. A cross on a necklace is not a rosary.

      October 7, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Just poor reporting. Other articles make it clear that it is a rosary with a crucifix.

      October 7, 2011 at 1:37 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.