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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. Bob marley

    You do not wear a Rosary! plan and simple

    October 6, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  2. S

    When did the ACLU recongnize the right of students to express their religion in school. They have fought for years to take away the rights of students to express Christian faith.

    October 6, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      You are clearly clueless about the ACLU. They have protected the religious expressions and religious meetings of students on campus. They have fought in court for that right. The ACLU protects people's civil rights. Regardless of the victims belief.

      October 6, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • no

      'S' is for stupid.

      October 6, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  3. Anonymous Coward

    As a young Catholic, I was taught that you never, ever, EVER wear a Rosary as a necklace. It belongs in your pocket, or in your hands, not around your neck. It is a tool for prayer, not mere jewelry.

    October 6, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  4. HAPPENED IN FREMONT, NOT OMAHA

    @Really?? – it is not a school in Omaha (like CNN said). It's a school in Fremont, just a bit outside of Omaha. And yes, there are bad gang problems in Omaha (not as bad as LA and Chicago), even in middle schools. Don't assume that just because we are "in the middle of nowhere" that we don't have these problems too.

    October 6, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  5. KJM1968

    I remember back in the 80's when Madonna wore (and inspired others to wear) rosary beads as jewelry and the Catholic church was outraged. Now it is OK, why the change?

    October 6, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • LaLa

      It's not. The Archbishop was commenting on her right to wear a cross/crucifix, not a Rosary.

      October 6, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Why would he comment on that since that was not ever brought into question?

      October 6, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • Chuckles

      B/c Madonna does Kabbala now?

      October 6, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • Bob Marley

      It Is Not O.K.

      October 6, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  6. Jim

    Yes, because Omaha is rampant with gangs. I hear they organize in corn fields.

    October 6, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • From Omaha

      Yes Jim, Omaha is rampant with gangs. Not to the level as some other major cities but there is a shooting in North Omaha almost everyday from gang violence. Get a clue and learn that Omaha is not some small farm town like most of Nebraska.

      October 6, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • Jamie K

      You're ignorant. Omaha itself has nearly 500,000 people. The entire metro area has over 1 million. Yes,there are gang problems in Omaha. I hear gunshots on a regular basis from my house.

      October 6, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
  7. JoeG

    I know too many school districts that ban the pentagram for the same reason. It is a symbol of my Wiccan faith but has been misused (upright and inverted) by years by gangs and multiple groups. While I believe very firmly in the separation of church and state, it is a sad time in our society when we can't even wear our own religious symbols on necklaces or the like because of ridiculous gangs and other misuse and abuse. Very sad indeed.

    October 6, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • LaLa

      She's not supposed to wear it. If she wants to wear a cross or crucifix, that would be different, but apparently she has decided to use a religious symbol which is associated w/gangs there and is trying to claim it's part of her faith to wear it. It's not. Rosaries are Catholic. Catholics DO NOT WEAR Rosaries. They hold them in their hands, keep them in pockets & purses & dresser drawers. They are for prayer, not for flaunting your faith & trying to make a statement.

      October 6, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Personal religious expression is just that. The law does not require that your religious practice be sanctioned by an established church. There is nothing inherently disruptive about wearing beads around your neck.

      October 6, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  8. Barry

    I heard that "School Board Affliation" was just street code speak for Gang Membership

    October 6, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  9. Thomnas J. Meehan III

    Perhaps School Offcials instead of consulting their attorneys on this issue, should have gone to thier Churchs, temples, and mosques to pray to God for help in decidinbg waht was the right thing to do

    Jsut because they were warned that gang activity was suspected of using religous sysbols, ins not enought to justy deniying an idinvuals freedom of religon, perhaps the effort and energy spent on making this decision could have been better spent in prevnting gangs from forming in the first place.

    Making schools safer should be a priority, but not at the expense of those beliefs this country was founded on.

    October 6, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      1. I did not realize this country was founded on Catholicism.
      2. Consulting a church on a matter of Consti.tutional law doesn't seem the best option.
      3. They needed to consult different lawyers.

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

      Gangs need to start wearing red. Then our schools will ban red. Then they can wear blue so the schools ban blue. Hopefully you can see where I'm going here. When the schools ban children wearing clothes they should all be safe from gangs. Not that that will matter by then because the real danger will be the school system.

      October 6, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  10. Brian

    The rules are the rules. As a Catholic, I would like for her to wear it but school rules are what need to be follwed.

    October 6, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  11. blah9999

    What's next? Banning headscarves?

    October 6, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
  12. Nazakat Hussain

    i am a muslim and i feel bad for what has been done with little girl. She is just six grader how could she belong to a gang??Shame on principal who punished the small little girl. She should wear rosary bcz this is her religious right.

    October 6, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • J.W

      Oh I knew sixth graders who were in gangs. I have heard of kids as young as 9 in gangs

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

      @Nazakat,
      They don't think she's in a gang, they're trying to prevent people who are not in gangs from incidentally wearing gang identifiers.

      October 6, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • LaLa

      Actually, no. If she is a believer in the Rosary (Catholic) she is being disrespectful. Rosaries are NOT jewelry and should not be worn as such – they are to assist a person in meditative prayer only & if she wants one with her it should either be in her hand or put away in her pocket. She is trying to make a case for religious persecution without understanding major points about the religion. Her parents should stop encouraging her & teach her the correct uses for sacred items. As a Muslim, I'm sure you have sacred items that are to be used only in certain ways, right ?

      October 6, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  13. Natalie

    So, I heard that some terrorists wear turbans. Let's ban those too..! This is ridiculous!

    October 6, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  14. Jessica

    I was a Junior in High School and we took a trip to Disney world and I got fuzzy pink antennae. I got back from the trip and wore them to a class following the field trip (within a few weeks) and was told I had to remove them because they were a gang symbol. Please let me know what gang wears pink fuzzy antennae because I'd like to join. 🙂

    October 6, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • J.W

      Are you sure? That is probably the most brutal gang in the world. They would have to be if that was their symbol.

      October 6, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Tough does not even come close to describing a gang that wears fuzzy pink antenna. I'd definitely cross the street if I saw them coming!

      October 6, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      It must be the sign of one of those gangs of hom/ose/xuals we all hear so much about.
      They like to grab Baptists and force them to convert to Gay.
      They got to Ted Haggard and Eddie Long and next they're coming for YOU!

      October 6, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  15. John

    From the sounds of it, I think the author is making an assumption that a rosary is a necklace with a crucifix on it. It is not. As LaLa correctly points out, a rosary is a string of beads with a crucifix at t he end that is used by Catholics in meditative prayer. A rosary is not jewelery and is not worn as such by Catholics.

    October 6, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      The article is clearly about a rosary. The crucifix was explicitly allwoed.

      October 6, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  16. Squeezebox

    When are people going to learn that a Rosary is not jewelry! It is a prayer system, not a fashion statement! Put your rosary either in your pocket or in your hands where it belongs!

    October 6, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  17. Thor

    If the school system had adequate leadership, gangs would not be such a problem in the first place. Gangs will still be present in whatever symbolism that they use. I would propose that gang symbols have been used for a long time, however, the school administrators have not been cognitive enough to recognize them.

    Wow! What an agenda to pursue. Perhaps the pursuit of knowledge should be more prominant in the school regimen than banishment!

    October 6, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  18. thes33k3r

    Religious brainwashing at its finest.

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

      Amen! We need to stop the child religious indoctrination!

      October 6, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
  19. NOT MY CHAIR

    this little girl should be kicked out of school for being an idiot. Jesus gave up his sins for us? if you are going to be religious at least get your made up story's correct

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

      Wow. I didn't even catch that. I'd bet her parents are pushing her to do this.

      October 6, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
  20. LaLa

    Ummm... Catholic Christians know that Rosaries are NOT worn. They are held in the hand for meditative prayer, not as personal accessories. It is disrespectful to wear it as jewelry. If she is not Catholic, she should be informed of this. Let her wear a crucifix or cross, but she should NOT be wearing a Rosary.

    October 6, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • LaLa

      Furthermore, there are other options I'm sure she would find acceptable if indeed she wants to "wear" a Rosary – bracelets w/ a single decade on them, rings w/the same ... Seems to me she just wants to make a big deal out of something & her parents are encouraging the bad behavior.

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

      I've seen nuns and preists wear rosaries around their waists, so I seriously doubt there is unanimity among roman catholics re wearing of the rosary.

      October 6, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      "bad behavior"? Wow, she wore some jewelry... Keep it in perspective already!

      October 6, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • LaLa

      @ Guest – You may have seen them either w/ a Rosary @ their waist, tucked into a sash, or a beaded sash that resembles a Rosary ... but Catholics DO NOT wear Rosaries.

      @ MarkinFL – if she is Catholic, yes, "bad behavior". She is being disrespectful of either her religion or someone else's. Rosaries ARE NOT jewelry.

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

      I would guess ignorant, not disrespectful. Did you read her description of your savior's actions? Pitiful.

      October 6, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
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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.