An apt news item for the beginning of October, the month of the rosary, don’t you think?
The Nebraska ACLU is siding with a sixth-grade girl who said that her religious beliefs have been compromised because the Fremont Public School District won’t let her go to class wearing a necklace that resembles a rosary.
The Fremont Middle School student said recently that the policy infringes on her rights to express her religious beliefs.
Fremont Superintendent Steve Sexton said the policy is for student safety. He said school officials have received information from police that the rosary is being used as a symbol of gang affiliation.
Amy Miller, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska, said Monday that the ban raises “serious concerns” about children’s religious liberty.
“Students have the right to express their faith in public schools,” Miller said. “Whether a student wants to wear a crucifix, a rosary or another symbol, it is wrong for school officials to interfere.
“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.”
Religious leaders are weighing in, too:
Twelve-year-old Elizabeth Cary says her necklace is a reminder of her faith. And she vowed to stand up for what she believes in and fight the Fremont, Neb., school district, where she is a sixth grader.
The local Catholic archdioceses has condemned the decision to ban rosaries from schools and says administrators should be smart enough to tell which students are at risk for gang activity.
‘We ought to be able to figure out whether she is really in a gang. And if she’s not, why would she be punished for what ought to be her right of religious freedom and religious expression?’ asked Rev. Joseph Taphorn.
Taphorn told KETV-7 in Omaha, Neb., that the ban on rosaries is an infringement on Elizabeth’s rights to freely practice her religion.
‘It makes me feel like I want to scream really bad,’ Elizabeth told the TV station.