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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. CarrotCakeMan

    Is someone really claiming Catholics are "supposed" to wear rosaries? NO, that was considered an act of disrespect for the rosary, the Catholic nuns that ran our Catholic school told us. The bishop there is just trying to politicize this situation, shame on him.

    October 6, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Oakspar

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

      Anyone familiar with Catholic theology (or any Christain theology) will quickly notice the problem with that statement. No Catholic is "bound" to wear the rosary, and any one claiming that they are, is likely as this girl is, theologically ignorant.

      Something is not a violation of religious freedom if it does not violate that religion. If she wants to have one on her, and is not presenting her gang affiliation, she can always wear it in hiding beneath other garments. A demand for it to be seen and on display has no religious purpose whatsoever.

      October 6, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Your personal religious expression does not have to have a specific endorsement of an established church. As long as it is not disruptive it should not matter. The claim here is not that it was a disruption but that it MIGHT have some potential for igniting a violent attack from someone. Not based on any real data, just a theory.

      October 6, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  2. GOLD

    YA KNOW THIS IS ALL TOGETHER JUST WRONG...THIS IS NOT THE ONLY TIME THAT THIS HAPPENS FACT OF THE MATTER IS THAT IT HAPPENENS EVEREWHERE...THIS IS EVEN HAPPENING IN LITTLE OL GERING, NE...BUT NO ONE HAS DONE ANYTHING ABOUT IT. TRUTH BE TOLD THAT NO MATTER WHO YOUR ARE, IF YOUR CATHOLIC YOUR BOUND TO WEAR ONE...AND WHAT, JUST BECAUSE GANG BANGERS WEAR THERM YOUS AUTOMATICALLY IN A GANG, OR ASSOCIATED WITH ON? WRONG!!!! THATS PROFILING AND WHO ARE WE TO BE THE ONES TO JUDGE OTHERS ON THEIR RELIGION......???

    October 6, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  3. geebs

    Don't I remember a recent issue where a muslim student was allowed to carry a small, symbolic knife to school with him, simply because it was part of his religious belief system? I don't remember the specific facts of the case, but I'm just thinking:

    A:) OK for Muslim student to carry a knife (a weapon, however harmless) to school
    B:) NOT ok for a Christian student to carry a crucifix (not a weapon in any way, shape, or form) to school

    Does anything seem strange about all of that?

    October 6, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Did you just jump right in without reading the article? There was never a problem with her crucifix.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • DamianKnight

      You could strangle someone with a rosary! It could be a deadly weapon!

      October 6, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • Chuckles

      If you can show me where in all of Islam there is such a thing as a symbolic knife that muslims need to carry with them as part of islam then maybe I can see your point.

      You might be thinking of sikhism which DOES have a symbolic knife (as part of 5 symbolic things) though I don't recall a case where they allowed for it to be brought to school.

      Do some more research before posting dumb stuff please and thanks.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • batman197323

      He was a Sikh, not muslim, but I agree with your premise

      October 6, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • Chris

      Not Muslim, geebs... there's no requirement there. However, Sikh males are expected to carry a kirpan, a small knife.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • DerbyChick

      Only if it happened at the same school. I'm guessing if the incident happened, and it's not some flight of fancy of yours, it took place somewhere else. You can't compare what happens at one school to what happens at another that is in no way related.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • geebs

      @ MarkinFL et al:

      The idea, whether muslim, sikh, or christian, is the ability to carry your religions symbolic items with you to school. ok for some, not for others.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Also, keep in mind that there are hundreds upon hundred of school boards in many different states, each making their own rules based on their own various rules and beliefs.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • MarkinFL

      geebs, so ignoring the fact that none of your original post related to any actual incident anywhere. Do you really think a mid-western school board is anti-christian? Or are you just completely paranoid?

      October 6, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • geebs

      MarkinFL

      Do a little research... now that I have had time to look further into it, read the following before telling someone else that they are....whatever.

      This is an exerpt from the new york times, YOUR bible.

      "A Federal appeals court has ruled that students who are members of an Indian religious sect should be allowed to wear the daggers they are given after baptism as long as they pose no threat to other students.

      The United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said on Friday that a California elementary school must make "all reasonable efforts" to accommodate the religious practices of three Sikh youngsters who have not attended school since January.

      Two brothers and a sister, ages 7, 8 and 10, were barred from their elementary school in Livingston, 100 miles south of here, for carrying the knives. Their family sued the district, claiming the policy placed an unlawful burden on their freedom of religion.

      The knives, which are called kirpans and usually have 4-inch blades, are worn by Khalsa Sikhs in sheaths under their clothes, as one of five symbols of devotion to God. A Sikh is a member of a Hindu religious sect founded in northern India."

      So, based on the FACT that this happened, the parents of the little girl in the story above is guaranteed a win if she sues the district for "placing an unlawful burden on their freedom of religion."

      October 6, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • geebs

      Let me spell it out a little more clearly, MarkinFL, in case you still cant grasp the rationale here.

      As it applies to the story at hand, A federal court has determined that wearing a kirpan to school is acceptable "attire" while a school board determined that wearing a rosary is not acceptable attire. Now, while I personally wouldn't wear a rosary, I think that the childs right to wear one has just been trampled on. It is no different at all from the sikh, kirpan issue cited above.

      Any reasonable person would see that there is a major disconnect going on here...common sense is not leading anything in this situation.

      October 6, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  4. zapper45701

    I think the point being missed is that gang affilitation can be related to anything. In the extreme: gang members wear clothing, so therefore everyone else should be nude? Gang members drive cars, therefore everyone else walks? Where does it end? It ends when people say enough is enough. I have rights, too. The gangs have no right to control, via the school board, my clothing choices, jewelry selections, my religion, or my homelife. The school is wrong on this one.

    October 6, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • claybigsby

      your analogies are ridiculous

      October 6, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • J.W

      Those things that you listed are not specific symbols to a gang though.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • Guest

      Actually he is right, I recall some students being sent home because they were all wearing a similar colored shirt which was reported to be gang related. I mean it is getting rediculous

      October 6, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • J.W

      Now I would say the color thing is probably going to far. What if there is a place with a lot of gangs and they all wear a different color?

      October 6, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • zapper45701

      Apparently, you did not read–"to the extreme. . . " The school board has taken it to the extreme when they equate a religious symbol with a gang. What is the next step? It's time to quit penalizing the innocent for the actions of others.

      October 6, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  5. metsguppy

    How is this not a violation of civil rights?

    October 6, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  6. Geoff

    You're not supposed to wear a rosary!!! Its a religous item not a fashion piece.

    October 6, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • geraldh

      It is not common that they are worn though some religious orders wear them. There is nothing against it in church rules or teaching.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  7. gang member

    As if one of us in the gang are going to confuse some little Christian girl who wears a symbol of her faith with one of us in the gang. None of us are concerned about her yet the board is. If the board is having trouble figuring out which of the two they should be afraid of, then they should change professions from education to daycare where they can pacify little babies with cookies and change diapers to keep the whining down to a minimum.

    October 6, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • JamesW

      No way to know if you are really involved in a gang and does not really matter. Interesting point and empahazies the point of an educated idiot and grown ups not thinking and behaving like one rather than making silly unfounded rules.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • geebs

      As if gang members routinely peruse the belief blog section at cnn.com....

      October 6, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  8. MarkinFL

    Question.
    How often do non-gang member students get attacked by accident because they happened to wear the wrong thing by accident? Is this a real problem or is it just another knee-jerk attempt to look like someone is doing something about gangs?
    I'll guess it is the latter. Any REAL info out there about this?

    October 6, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • once a member

      well for the most part, if your in a gang, you know who is and who isn't. if you attack anyone, all thats needed is a reason to attack if that perosn getting attacked is part of the same gang, but if they are not part of your gang, different gang rules apply here, its normally fair game, beat-downs are common place. its like a pack of wolves.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • once a member

      keep in mind, that gangs are like family to each other.... religions are run by greed. gangs are visibly scary, but a religion telling you what to do or you fry in hell forever is just as scary. not even gonna say a thing about all the other messed up things beliegs make people do!

      October 6, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  9. skeptic

    This girl sounds extremely brainwashed. If this isn't an example of why it should be illegal to force religion on an impressionable mind, I don't know what is.

    Seriously, the idea that someone died for your sins only makes sense if you think that the benevolent creator wants a huge number of people to burn in hell for all eternity.

    What!?!?!?

    October 6, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • JamesW

      You do not have to believe it, like it or in any other way condone it. But the day you prevent someone from doing so you turn your back on what this country is all about. We can not let you do your own thing and live the way you want and not let others. It is a two way street the idea is to live together and agree to disagree.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • geraldh

      In other words atheists can teach their kids what they want but Christians should be forced to not teach children what they believe. What do you propose? Taking kids away from Christians? Post like your tell me that one day if atheists get in control Christians will be murdered and imprisoned.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • C. Smith

      Sounds to me more like you're the brainwashed one. Brainwashed by the radical atheists that only support free speech when its their speech that's being made free.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • Guest

      And why do you even care. the greater concern is how this nation is becoming a police state. Our basic liberties are being taken away in the pursuit of "safety."

      Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. -Ben Franklin

      October 6, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • claybigsby

      here is an idea...no matter what belief system you are a part of, children should not be brought into it until a certain age when they are able to make educated decisions on their own. The point is, all belief systems indoctrinate minors. Instead of scaring them into believing something, why not let them make their own choices when they are mentally able to do so instead of forcing one belief system over another down their throats..

      October 6, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • J.W

      I do not think it is wrong to teach children about what you believe, just as long as you do not shield them from the rest of the world. In my church people are not baptized until they are old enough to make the decision on their own. They take that step when they make the decision that they are committed to their faith.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • claybigsby

      @JW....well said!

      October 6, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  10. Theophilus

    The wrong questions are being asked here...

    Demographically in 2000, the racial makeup of the city was 95.28% White, 0.57% African American, 0.31% Native American, 0.61% Asian, 0.11% Pacific Islander, 2.29% from other races, and 0.82% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.31% of the population. Does the principal seriously expect us to believe it is the hotbed of Gang activity?

    According to the Freemont Tribune in 2009, there are only 20 persons with verified ties to gangs present in this town of over 25,000. They also indicate that gang activity was at a minimal just two years ago when the article was written.

    Get the facts, ask the right questions, and it becomes clear that this is a thinly veiled anti-Christian act.

    October 6, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • Jamie K

      You need better stats. Fremont is pretty much a suburb of Omaha, which is much more racially diverse and actually is a hotebed of gang activity these days. The school is still allowing her to wear regular cross/crucifix cahin necklaces, her cross t-shirts, and her cross bracelets. It's NOT an anti-Christian agenda.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • Jamie K

      2010 Census stats:
      Omaha: 13.09% hispanic, 13.68% african american
      Fremont: 11.9% hispanic, .006% african american
      It's still not any kind of discrimination though. They're allowing her to wear other items with Christian symbols.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  11. alex

    so I have a radical thought. why not smack the #$%^ out of the gang members wearing the rosary and let this child have her faith. I am seriously losing patience with the way this country is addressing these problems.... because it always seems to be the legitimate "little person" who is making the sacrifices for the thugs of the country.

    October 6, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Easy solutions to complex problems. The hallmark of a weak school board.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • JamesW

      Very much agree. For too long now in this country we have decided we would rather give up our freedoms and let a few bad people change the way we do things rather than stand up to them and stand our ground.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  12. Teco

    As a former gang member and someone who wore a rosary during those years, i can tell you that we never wore them out of affiliation with a gang. You live a miserible live when you're involved in gangs, and when you were a rosary it is a personal symbol of hope. Hope that God may changed things for the better. It was a sense of security when every humanly thing went wrong. To wear it was a plea to God to protect us and forgive us of the terrible, human things that we were involved with. Honestly, people that think they know why gangs do what they do are often wrong and ignorant. Gangs aren't good, we often know that, but like this story proves to an extent we also know that no one understands our lives. Stop watching gangland because it's full of misleading information and a prime source of surburban, white America's information on gangs.

    October 6, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • claybigsby

      TECO you are a piece of **** and exactly what is wrong with our country. I guess god loves and protects stupid, ignant gang bangers. You are TRASH

      October 6, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Wow clay, judge much?
      What did he write that was so bad? really.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • claybigsby

      the only reason gangs exist is because you are too stupid to make money any other way. Period. Youd rather slang bricks than work a real job. Lazy fck.

      October 6, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      I guess you missed the "former" at the beginning of his post. Clay, you must be a Christian. No?

      October 6, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Actually, on second thought, you may just be one of the clueless non-christians. Clueless comes in all flavors.

      October 6, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • claybigsby

      Markin, my opinion is that gang bangers are nothing more than lazy, degenerates who cant make money honestly and need to slang drugs and kill people to make money. THAT IS TRASH. This guy is also hiding behind god "You live a miserible live when you're involved in gangs, and when you were a rosary it is a personal symbol of hope. Hope that God may changed things for the better. It was a sense of security when every humanly thing went wrong. To wear it was a plea to God to protect us and forgive us of the terrible, human things that we were involved with. " God has nothing to do with the situation gang bangers find themselves in, and everything do to with their stupidity. just another example of pieces of trash like this not taking responsibility for their actions.

      October 6, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • claybigsby

      clueless about what? why gangs operate? its pretty obvious. sorry, i am not christian. So whats your point?

      October 6, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • claybigsby

      and i dont care if he is a "former" or "current" gang member. Either way he is trash.

      October 6, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      You are awfully sensitive about gangs....

      October 6, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • claybigsby

      Markin, what you call sensitive, I call descriptively accurate on how gangs and the members of those gangs operate. Gang violence runs rampant in Chicago (where I live), and frankly, Im tired of hearing about it. Gangs are pretty much terrorist organizations and need to be dealt with as such. round them up and kill them all.

      October 6, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  13. Lisa

    Rosary beads are meant for devotion and prayer. They are not to be worn as jewlery and doing so is disrepectful and blasephemous. If gang memebers choose to wear them, it only reinforces their lack of regard for life and shows their ignorance and stupidity.

    October 6, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • claybigsby

      yes but that ignorance is not going to keep them from killing a 12 year old girl because they thought she was a part of a rival gang. Gang members come in all ages and they certainly are not discriminatory when it comes to the people they kill.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:59 am |
  14. hippypoet

    the idea of modern people truly thinking that a necklace will protect you from evil is just plain laughible...thats because religious people are generally very dumb ignorant people. lol silly god, being am imaginary friend is for kids!

    October 6, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • C. Smith

      So, wait, you expect people to believe in invisible 'dark' matter and invisible 'dark' energy, even though such things can also be explained by tweaks to the details of gravitational theory (read: Modified Gravity Theory), but anyone who believes in a deity or the supernatural must be silly at best, and insane at worst? Riiiiiiight.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • geraldh

      Where in the article did it say that she believed wearing the rosary protected her? Looking? Looking? If that were a Catholic belief we would all be wearing them. It is not. It only shows ignorant prejudice on your part.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • JamesW

      Just a friendly note here from a CNN reading idiot. I believe in the faith the child has not the necklace. If you really believe she believes there is something special about that necklace you do not really understand either.
      And in an effort to live together in a friendly manner it really does you nor I any good to voice your disdain for what someone else believes. You should be very happy that the religious right in this country is held down or you would be the one that is being hunted down and tormented.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Well yes, we make all our decisions based on how the dark matter will react to them and pretend to understand the will of the dark matter.

      You are comparing a scientific theory to your god? Wow. No one accepts those theories as perfect or immutable. Most scientific theories that prove useful and appear to explain the real world are accepted until something better comes along. There is no magic in science and no science in magic.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  15. cherrypieguy

    I think all articles of religion should not be tolerated in a public school period! If you want to wear your foolish affiliation do it in a religious atmosphere like church or a phoney republican press conference. Religion is for the weak of mind!

    October 6, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Nonetheless, our Consti.tution guarantees an individual the right to express any silly beliefs they have. Having this right also protects unpopular expressions that may be quite intelligent and important. Sometimes you just have to take the silly with the important. No harm is done to anyone else.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • Toni

      Maybe you should keep your idiotic comments to yourself.... will make you look like less of a bozo if you do ... cherrypiedork!!

      October 6, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • W247

      Totally agree with the school uniform policy....

      October 6, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  16. cat94925

    She's Catholic and wearing rosary beads as a necklace?! She should know better. You are not supposed to wear them as a necklace; that is totally disrespectful. Wearing a discrete cross necklace in no way would make you look like a gang banger. Wearing big fat ones hanging over your clothes, on your wrists, all over your shirt makes you look like an idiot, not a devout Catholic. I'm saying this as a Catholic.

    October 6, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Maybe she just likes the pretty beads? Hopefully her secular education is better than her religious education.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  17. Michael

    The truth is that a rosary shouldn't be worn at all. It's not a piece of jewelry. It's a sacramental used for prayer. If she want's to wear a crucifix then she should buy one on a chain that's meant for wear.

    October 6, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Of course, this being the United States, if she chooses to wear a Rosary as jewelry that should be her choice.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:04 am |
  18. GPC

    A rosary is not intended to be used as a piece of jewelry and its use as such is vulgar and, in my opinion, blasphemous.

    October 6, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Opinion noted. Ignored.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • JamesW

      Second the ignore

      October 6, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • Sean

      Your use of the term blasphemy is blasphemous. You need to do a little more study on what blasphemy actually is. Do you worship things and places like rosaries and cathedrals? Or do you worship jesus. If you worship Jesus, it shouldn't matter if you use a rosary or worship in a cathedral or on a beach. That's the problem with catholicism.....

      October 6, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  19. Michelle

    The catholic faith (which celebrates the rosary), uses it as prayer beads. A rosary is not to be worn as jewelry.

    October 6, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  20. Jamie K

    I live in Omaha. The gang problem is getting pretty bad here. Maybe not as bad as Chicago or LA, but it's bad for a city this size. Most of the schools and businesses have developed "no tolerance" policies in regards to clothing or other items that could be considered gang paraphenalia. It's not that big of a deal... you just wear something else or avoid wearing certain articles of clothing certain places. Unfortuantely her rosary falls into this category. They are still allowing her to wear her shirts and bracelets that have crosses on them, so they are NOT attacking her religion at all. She can even wear a little chain necklace with a crucifix if she wants. Just not anything resembling a rosary. She and her parents have made a mountain out of a molehill with this one.

    October 6, 2011 at 10:54 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.