District Says Church Symbol Being Used By Gangs
POSTED: 9:46 pm CDT October 2, 2011
UPDATED: 8:17 am CDT October 3, 2011
church said something that should be a symbol of love has been adopted and abused by gang influences.
A sixth-grade girl said she was told that she can't wear a necklace that resembles a rosary because it violates the dress code at the Fremont Public Schools.
Elizabeth Carey, 12, said the school adopted a policy last year banning the necklaces.
"The principal said I couldn't wear my necklace at all because gangsters were wearing it," she said.
She said the necklace is part of an outfit that she hopes expresses her faith.
"I'm wearing a cross necklace, a cross T-shirt and a cross bracelet," she said. "I'm thinking of how Jesus died on the cross and how he gave up all his sins for us."
Superintendent Steve Sexton said the policy is for student safety.
"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 said.
He said rosaries have been used as gang-identification symbols in Oregon, Arizona and Texas.
Omaha Catholic Archdiocese Chancellor Rev. Joseph Taphorn said it's disheartening.
"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," he said.
He said the corruption of something as beloved as the rosary disgusts the church.
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"One ought to be able to figure out whether she's trying to promote a gang," Taphorn said. "If she's not, why would she be punished for her right of religious freedom and religious expression?"
Carey said she doesn't even know what a gang is. She said it makes her upset that she was punished for wearing what she thought was a necklace.
"It makes me feel like I want to scream really bad," she said.
Her parents also said they were upset that their daughter was being kept from expressing her religious beliefs.
Carey said she will continue to make a statement with her wardrobe through cross necklaces and shirts.
"I'm deciding to stand up for Jesus and do whatever I can to stop this," she said.
Fremont Public Schools said the district has no problem with students wearing jewelry or clothing to express their faith, but rosaries are an exception.