Santa Rosa, Calif., Jul 11, 2013 / 04:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Catholic college employee who won an apology from her public university after her supervisor told her to hide her cross necklace says students should defend their right to express their religious beliefs.
“I would encourage them to stand up for their faith and their convictions,” Audrey Jarvis told CNA July 9. “If they sense that something is not right or might even be a violation of their rights, they should definitely speak up.”
Jarvis, a 19-year-old liberal arts major at California's Sonoma State University, was working at a June 27 student orientation fair for new freshmen as an employee of the university’s Associated Student Productions, a student programming organization.
Jarvis’ supervisor told her to remove the cross necklace because it might offend others or make new students feel unwelcome, the religious freedom legal group The Liberty Institute reports. The supervisor told her that the university chancellor had a policy against wearing religious items.
“I was stunned and caught off guard. I did not expect this to happen to me,” Jarvis said. “I was quite upset and I left work early that day, which is out of character for me.”
She said she doesn’t know why her supervisor, a university employee, thought her necklace could be offensive.
Sonoma State University spokeswoman Susan Kashack told CNA / EWTN News that the employee was “absolutely wrong” to ask Jarvis to remove or hide her cross and did not correctly represent the university’s policy, which does not bar the display of religious items.
“The employee realized his request was inappropriate and has tried to contact her to apologize,” Kashack said July 10, adding that the university president Ruben Armiñana offered his own “heartfelt apology” to the student.
Kashack said the university’s Title IX officer is investigating the incident. She added that the university has a “strong non-discrimination policy.”
“If and when Ms. Jarvis returns to campus there will be no issues with her wearing her cross or any other type of religious or cultural items,” the spokeswoman added. “We hope she returns to her campus as soon as possible.”
Jarvis said she appreciated the university’s response. “I think the university has been very responsive and is clearly taking this very seriously. I am happy to see that,” she said.
Mike Berry, an attorney with the Liberty Institute, said the university’s response is “an acknowledgment that students have the constitutional right to freely express their religious beliefs.”
“Schools may not discriminate against a student based on the religious or perceived-religious content of the student's speech,” he said.
Berry said Jarvis is still waiting for a letter from the university apologizing for the incident and assuring her that she can still wear her cross and other religious items.
Sonoma State University has over 8,000 students. It is part of the California State University system.