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. Missing the bigger point

    I think it's unfortunate that an 11 year old child has to worry more about a necklace than her classes in her school. It's further unfortunate that her parents chose to instill a passion for – what is for all practicle purposes – a blind faith in their child rather than a passion for a good education, to learn, and to have a sense of wonder and curiosity for the world around her.

    Yet, she is having to deal with stupid stuff like this. Anyone who wants to indorctrinate their child to an unsubstantiated, arbitrary belief system should wait until their children have the mental capacity to think for themselves, and ask questions. I'd think their faith would be more valid and valuable too, since they weren't conditioned to accept it without question, but rather arrive at it through a more personal process. Otherwise, it's simply brainwashing. But unfortunately, most believers would *never* give their children that chance lest they question the myriad stuff that doesn't make sense, in pretty much every organized religion.

    October 6, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • Reality-Check

      Christianity brings a true appreciation for the world, secularism only brings sorrow and dispair.

      October 6, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • cosmicc

      I'm full of joy and hope and I'm an atheist. I know of plenty of people like me, as well as plenty of people wallowing in sorrow and dispair because of or inspite of religion. I don't think there's that strong a link either way.

      October 6, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • Igor

      You need to qualify that statement, Christianity only brings joy to other Christians, and even then only within their own denomination. To everyone else Christianity brings sorrow and despair., especially to the secularists.

      October 6, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • Igor

      And what's with the ironic moniker? Since when is blind faith of any sort checked against reality?

      October 6, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • Jimtanker

      Until they can show that it is true that "secularists" live in sorrow then I will disregard that statement anyway.

      October 6, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  2. Lynsey Pug

    I'm thinking of how Jesus died on the cross and how he gave up all his sins for us."

    Christians should spend less time thinking of how Jesus died, and more time emulating the way he lived.

    October 6, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • MarkinFL

      I'm still trying to figure out which sins he gave up for us? I did not realize Jesus was such a sinner that it was quite a personal sacrifice to give all them sins up.

      October 6, 2011 at 9:48 am |
    • Igor

      You know, I am an ardent scholar of religion and mythology. My readings so far failed to answer one basic question: why 3 days of suffering on a cross to absolve us of our sins by a son of God who thereafter went on to spend an eternity in bliss any more significant than a sacrifice of thousands of regular humans who suffered unimaginable pain and torture for a variety of reasons and for a longer period? I would be more susceptible to joining Christianity if Jesus ended up suffering for an eternity for our sins.

      October 6, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Well, yes. I've always thought it a bit ludicrous that we're supposed to feel such angst for Jesus dying on the cross. He is supposedly one of the few people with absolute certainty and knowledge of his place in heaven. He may as well have walked on to a stage and performed an unusually painful stunt and then walked off. For all practical purposes that is what the story of Jesus portrays.

      October 6, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • Jimtanker

      Jesus had a bad weekend for your sins.

      October 6, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  3. hrumph

    hrumph! hrumph! hey i didn't get a hrumph outta that guy!
    you give the govner a hrumph...!


    October 6, 2011 at 9:45 am |
  4. Jason B.

    Quick! Everyone wear beige colors only! I heard gangs sometimes wear certain colors! Oh no...don't wear shoes either. Gangs often wear shoes!

    Good grief. Like a 6th grade, white, Catholic girl is the big target demographic for gangs.

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

      Yes, indeed.

      Around here when you read the sheet about gang colors and other "identifying" clothing, it describes most kids in the country. One of the things was "certain college shirts – including Georgetown" – given that we live near DC, I can't count how many Georgetown shirts I see. Another was "red and blue" (paired) – let's see, our school colors are red, white & blue – guess kids shouldn't dress for Spirit Days.

      We teach our kids to judge others based on their actions, not their appearance, then get stuff like this. Supid, stupid, stupid.

      October 6, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • cosmicc

      Sorry to burst your bubble, but yes, a 6th grade white catholic girl could very well be a gang member. Setting aside the rhetoric about religion in schools, gangs are a threat to any school they enter. Their presence affects the quality of education available to all.

      October 6, 2011 at 10:06 am |
  5. doctore0

    Christianity is a gang, several thousand gangs + imaginary boss

    October 6, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • jwas1914

      Really, can you prove that?

      October 6, 2011 at 9:49 am |
  6. frespech

    Elizabeth says she is wearing the cross, tee shirt and bracelet to remind her that Jesus died on the cross and gave up all his sins.( Jesus was without sin, therefore an equal sacrifice once for all mankind from the inherited sin from the first perfect man Adam) Get rid of the symbols and read the Bible if you are inclined to follow Jesus.

    October 6, 2011 at 9:41 am |
  7. DBsanders

    I was taught you shouldn't wear rosaries in the first place. The objection is not to wearing a cross, but the rosary, which shouldn't be worn anyway and is co-opted by the gangs in that area. Don't see this as a religious issue at all.

    October 6, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  8. TAK

    All the christians complaining... Yet they were the first in line to support France's burqa ban.

    October 6, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • Teaneck

      What a stupid comparison. Christians did not blow up the World Trade Center and don't hid their faces behind a burqua.

      October 6, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • MarkinFL

      They just hide behind their bible.

      October 6, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • LivinginVA

      I oppose both bans.

      October 6, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  9. N3RM

    Last time I checked Omaha and Fremont are 40 miles apart. Is this girl taken the bus?

    October 6, 2011 at 9:18 am |
  10. Jimtanker

    "Just another excuse to keep anything religious out of schools."

    As well it should be. According to the Constltution anyway.

    October 6, 2011 at 9:03 am |
    • Igor

      Why come up with excuses, when the official rationale is suffcient and widely utilized. Not everything is about persecuting 2.3 Billion Christians. Sometimes child safety is a more pressing issue then prosecuting Christians you know. Incidentally, as an ardent supporter of the separation church and state i have no issues (nor would anyone supporting it) with individual expressions of faith in schools. Remember, if you get too paranoid then the terrorists won.

      October 6, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • MarkinFL

      An individual expression of religion that is not interfering with anyone else should be protected. Just as other students should be protected from religious interference. This looks like just another knee-jerk reaction by a school board that found it easy to discriminate against Catholics.

      Disclaimer: I am an atheist thrice damned to he11 so I do not give a fig about Catholics or any other religion. I do care about our Consti.tution though.

      October 6, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • Igor

      @Markin: It is well know that some gangs, Latin Kings off the top of my head, use rosary beads as gang identifiers. I agree that this is a knee jerk reaction, but I doubt it's a pretext.

      October 6, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Oh, I do not think it is a pretext either. But since Catholicism is apparently a minority religion in the area it is a lot easier to restrict their freedoms. Basically, it was an easy decision since it was no skin off their apple (as it were).

      October 6, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • Igor

      Thanks for the clarification, it makes sense and i should have thought of such a possibility. I get so much pains from Christians for being an atheist I sometimes forget that they hate other Christians too.

      October 6, 2011 at 10:00 am |
  11. think for yourself

    Who cares if the brainwashed sheeplings want to wear a rosary to school. Is it gang related? Of course, it represents the largest gang on the planet.

    October 6, 2011 at 8:52 am |
  12. Luke

    Boy is that intolerance! Just another excuse to keep anything religious out of schools.

    October 6, 2011 at 8:18 am |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      Luke, you must remember the Rosary is something primarily used by Roman Catholics, not the good Lutherans of the Midwest. After all, you can be religious out there, just not Poppish! Remember, too, a lot of these gangs they are worried about are Hispanic and a large number of Hispanics are also Roman Catholic. Therefore anything remotely Catholic must be gang-related!

      October 6, 2011 at 8:55 am |
  13. brin3m

    I am a catholic and a rosary is not meant to be worn as jewelry

    October 6, 2011 at 7:44 am |
    • Ms. D

      I am both a Catholic and a teacher. Many students in my school district are wearing them. I know that they have no idea that it is not meant to be worn but I still get offended. I'm shocked that the Archdiocese in this story did not speak up.

      October 6, 2011 at 8:15 am |
    • binny

      brin3m you are, of course, correct. I am stunned the archdiocese is "disappointed" about this. A rosary is NOT jewelry- you cannot adorn yourself with it because it is blessed and it is a catalyst for prayer. you can carry it, You can wear it (not around your neck- from a belt as nuns do) but it MUST NOT be put in a position where it will touch the ground or be subject to damage- it is, as I said, blessed. Even an unblessed rosary should be respected in this way. You would not tear pages out of a bible and frame them or display them. The rosary is not for decoration. Pope John Paul made this clear a few years before he died.

      October 6, 2011 at 8:20 am |
    • KL

      I agree, it shouldn't be worn as such but they went above and beyound on this one.

      October 6, 2011 at 8:53 am |
    • T-Jeff

      2 words on why most people think it's jewelry, "Jersey Shore". Stupid show

      October 6, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • TC

      EXACTLY. Whether you agree or not, a rosary is not typically something decorative. I can only guess the Archdiocese thought the message of protecting religious expression more important than etiquette of wearing a rosary. That said, as a parent I would not want my kid wearing a rosary. And as a Hispanic myself, I don't think this is a practice that can be generalized to an entire ethnic group–though maybe its more common in a certain socio-economic-geographic segment.

      October 6, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • optomist

      If it is not being used or properly then it is not a rosary. So let it go.

      October 6, 2011 at 9:43 am |
  14. kelly

    This is insane! Like someone else said, we have gang colors and everything else that gets these kids in trouble and we are going to complain about someone wearing rosary beads. Come on people, whats the harm is this. Bring prayer back into the school and really see the magic work.

    October 6, 2011 at 7:23 am |
    • Jimtanker

      So you really want them wearing a mideivil torture device around their neck?

      And, you hit it right on the head. Magic, that's all religion is, smoke and mirrors.

      October 6, 2011 at 7:36 am |
    • Whatashock!

      Ok, everybody, Jimtanker is baiting Christians. No matter what you say, he will simply claim it false.

      It's an easy trick, meant to make Christians angry.

      His choice to not believe. Our choice to believe. It's that simple.

      However, Jimbo, the cross was never meant to be a torture device, but a device of execution, meant to starve the body of oxygen. Yes, it was a slow death, but relatively painless, except for the piercings.

      As for your claim that it was "midievil" (I'm sure you meant medieval) that's erroneous. The crose had been used as a death penalty device since well before Christ, which is about 700 years before medieval.

      October 6, 2011 at 8:03 am |
    • think for yourself

      Prayer doesn't work. Never has, never will. It is no different than talking to yourself. If you don't believe so, go to a hospital and pray for an amputee to regenerate a missing limb.

      October 6, 2011 at 8:43 am |
    • Jimtanker

      Nice strawman Whatashock. Put a sock in it.

      Until you have ANY evidence that your god exists, I'll continue to treat it as what it is. Total BS.

      October 6, 2011 at 8:59 am |
  15. Chihirolee3

    If I came to school with a swastika, I'd be in big trouble. Yet it means love and peace. But now we affiliate with Nazi's.

    October 6, 2011 at 5:56 am |
    • kelly

      I agree, but that is what americans have made it over the years, a symbol of hatred. But does that mean someone cannot wear rosary beads?

      October 6, 2011 at 7:25 am |
    • Jimtanker


      To many christianity is a religion of hatred. Have you seen the news or read your book?

      October 6, 2011 at 7:34 am |
    • cosmicc

      There are plenty of people who associate a cross with something that was burned on their lawn.

      October 6, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  16. Nathan G.

    So pretty much what the school is saying is that gangs can pick any symbol they want and the school district will ban it. What about the red cross? The American flag? What if they started wearing little bracelets with the names of fallen troops?

    Seriously, what the hell is this country coming to? Did this school district hire a bunch of 2.0 GPA lawyers or is their legal representation electing to promote willfull stupidity?

    October 6, 2011 at 4:47 am |
  17. Scott

    Make them wear a uniform. Problem solved.

    October 6, 2011 at 4:20 am |
  18. frank burnsf

    She's thinking about "How Jesus gave up all his sins for us" - is this some new sort of doctrine?

    October 6, 2011 at 3:27 am |
    • think for yourself

      Haha. I guess the young sheepling didn't learn how to say baaaaaaaah correctly.

      October 6, 2011 at 8:55 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Maybe he gave them up for Lent?

      October 6, 2011 at 9:24 am |
  19. Paul

    JFK's life was taken. Christ freely gave his life. No comparison.
    In my opinion Christians could pick a symbol commemorating the resurrection rather than a symbol of his death.
    However if this student likes this symbol, the school has no right to prevent her from wearing it.

    October 6, 2011 at 2:36 am |
    • Jimtanker

      You're right. There is no comparison. JFK was real.

      October 6, 2011 at 5:08 am |
    • O. Really

      @Jimtanker What exactly makes JFK more real? Video footage? I suppose then that dinosaurs are made up as well? And if you want to throw fossils and artifacts out there, there are hundreds - if not thousands - of scholars who have found hard evidence of Jesus' life and death.

      October 6, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • Sun Stevens

      O.Really... Lots of men lived during that time. Let me know when someone finds proof that Jesus was the son of God. For that matter, let me know when there's proof of God actually existing. Until that time, I'll stick to believing in things that can be physically proven.

      October 6, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • cosmicc

      @O. Really. I'm not a Christian, so obviously I don't believe in the divinity of Jesus. I do think there's a strong case to be made that the core of the teachings and mythos are based on the life of a single individual, however there's nothing that's risen to the level of "hard evidence".

      October 6, 2011 at 9:55 am |
  20. Can it get any worse?

    "the symbol for the love of Christ because a few people want to misuse that symbol"
    Ya, right. I'm going to wear a small little rifle around my neck as "the symbol for the love" of JFK.

    October 6, 2011 at 2:25 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.