Nova Scotia Teen in Trouble for Wearing ‘Life is Wasted Without Jesus’ Shirt

In Nova Scotia, Canada, Forest Heights Community School senior William Swinimer has been in hot water for a shirt he wore to school. The Vice Principal at the school told him it was offensive and he had to remove it because it was “hate talk.”

Then, in true rebel fashion, Swinimer not only left it on, he wore it during his in-school suspensions… and his five days of out-of-school suspension.

This is the shirt that had the administration all riled up:

William Swinimer (Ryan Taplin - National Post)

Swinimer is surprised his “Life is Wasted without Jesus” shirt has been at the center of so much controversy:

“I believe this is worth standing up for — it’s not just standing up for religious rights, it’s standing up for my rights as a Canadian citizen; for freedom of speech, freedom of religion. I don’t think this is right.”

I’m all for students having freedom to express their beliefs. But that doesn’t mean I approve of this shirt. There’s a pretty clear reason why:

It insults people who don’t believe in Jesus. It says very directly that they’re wasting their lives and that they’re worthless. It’s a form of bullying. (It’s also completely false — How many brilliant people have made contributions to our world without believing in Christian nonsense? It’s a shirt anyone can refute with about 2 seconds of thought.)

If Swinimer wore a shirt that said, “Life is great with Jesus,” I don’t think I would care much at all. That’s a personal message with positive tones (at least in theory). It’s no different than students expressing themselves by wearing a cross. Or atheists saying we can be good without god. It doesn’t say anything negative about people who don’t agree with your beliefs.

School officials should have the right to stop students the moment they bring themselves up by putting others down. It’s just not the climate you want to foster in a high school. It also opens the door to an unwanted religious debate (in the guise of “freedom”) that doesn’t seem very conducive to learning.

(By the same reasoning, I would oppose an atheist student wearing a shirt that says, “Life is wasted with Jesus.”)

Side note only because it seems relevant: I teach at a high school that was sued on behalf of students eager to wear shirts reading, “Be Happy, Not Gay” on the Day of Silence a few years ago. An Appeals court ruled in the students’ favor and the ACLU supported them, too. I think the school was right to ask the students to change their clothes back then. And perhaps I’m contradicting myself here, but I don’t think a shirt reading, “Be Happy, Be Straight,” even with the “positive language,” would have been any more acceptable…

Should Swinimer have been suspended for his shirt? I would need more information to answer that. Was he trying to provoke people? Why choose that shirt to wear and not one with a more positive message? Those things should be taken into account.

For what it’s worth, the Centre For Inquiry in Canada put out a statement in support of Swinimer:

“While CFI sponsored the Atheist Bus Campaign, we are a strong champion of freedom of speech and freedom of religion,” said National Communications Director Justin Trottier. “This shirt causes no harm and is a perfectly acceptable contribution to the marketplace of ideas.”

CFI condemns religious indoctrination at taxpayer expense via publicly funded religious schools or teacher-led prayers, but believes every student has a constitutional right to self-expression.

“We have consistently defended free speech rights for groups regardless of our agreement on message, including Muslim and Christian ads in public space and censored pro-life debates on campus,” said Trottier.

Instead of suspension or censorship, CFI would prefer the pro-Jesus T-shirt be used as an opportunity for dialogue and reasoned debate on religion and ethics.

Some commenters on other websites as well as emails sent to me point out that Swinimer wore this shirt in an effort to get suspended — it’s not just something that “happened” to him. I can’t confirm that, but if it’s true, that would push me toward agreeing with the suspensions.

(Thanks to everyone for the links)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001627228091 Alexander Ryan

    I read the story linked above. First off, I’m all for defending what you believe in, whether it’s belief or non-belief (Viva la Nonbelief!)… but if he gets suspended for the rest of the school year for continuing to wear it, as he predicts, I hope he enjoys wasting a year of his life when he has to repeat the 12th grade, over a shirt. Second, I really don’t think the shirt is a problem, unless there are some kinds or teachers who complained. You can berate him for wearing the shirt all you want, but unless it’s causing a classroom disruption, I don’t see any harm in wearing it. However, I do not condone the shirt. A “Life is just plain great no matter what you think” would be more to my liking. Granted life isn’t *always* great, but I don’t want to get technical. My hand is already starting to hurt from typing this, so I’ll leave it at that. 

  • dangeroustalk

    I’m on the side of free speech on this one. Let him wear his shirt. Let atheists wear their shirts. let people be offended. That’s life. 

    • Andrew Van Marm

      That’d work in many places, but not a school. Offending has no place there. Young minds are easily impacted. 

      • dangeroustalk

         Not according to the Tinker case.

        • Andrew Van Marm

          Lol that wasn’t targeting a specific group of students. They were just protesting the war. Absolutely different. 

          • dangeroustalk

             It established the right of free expression for students. I don’t think it is that different. I don’t agree with the message on the t-shirt, but I will fight for their right to say it in a non-violent way. Students should absolutely have the right to express their opinion no matter how retarded that opinion might be. That’s life in free society.

            • Andrew Van Marm

              Incorrect. Later cases ended up limiting the scope of student free-speech. Anything considered indecent or offensive can be suppressed. School has never been a free society. It’s school. Once they’re outside the building, they can wear or do whatever they want. Outside, a person can choose to walk away, in school they can’t. 

            • Andrew Van Marm

              Also, this is in Canada. U.S. Supreme Court decisions do not really apply there, unless you were just trying to make an equivocation. 

              • MichaelD

                Damn you mean we have our own courts too! Uppity Canadians :P

          • TiltedHorizon

             I’d need to see case law supporting this claim. The context of the Tinker case ruled that any “non-disruptive speech” is permissible inside school grounds. The only amendments to that ruling, that I am aware of, extend to messages that are sexually subjective, are obscenities, or appear supportive of illegal activities; narcotics, violence, etc. 

            “Life is wasted without jesus” constitutes a silent, passive expression of opinion, unaccompanied by any disorder or disturbance; hence acceptable.

            • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=628665833 Bill Santagata

              Your reading of the case law is correct, Tilted Horizon. School officials must show that speech will have a “material disruption” on school activities. This cannot be based on conjecture or whether the school administrators personally disagree with the message.

      • When I Was Your Age

        Young people need the same free speech rights as the rest of us, regardless of what the message is. Young atheists especially need free speech. The price of free speech is that people get to wear t-shirts with bigoted messages.  And in comparison to the gay bashing t-shirts Herman describes at his school,  people getting to wear t-shirts about their relationships with zombie Jesus and his fairy tale of a father is just entertainment.

        • Isilzha

           I think students should have uniforms while in school. 

      • JWH

        That argument might hold water if we’re talking about elementary students.  But this is high school.  

      • Dhynes

        apparently, YOU haven’t been in a jr. or sr. highschool for many yrs.

  • Jody

    Free speech is an interesting concept, but at educational institutions it must be grounded in truth. I also agree with the point that students, and staff shouldn’t be permitted to disrupt class with external issues or encourage or support bullying. I would have now issue with any religious person wearing clothing that showed a belief, but did so independent of reducing other’s beliefs.

  • Fsq

    I am siding with the kid on this one. Ridiculous and asinine message, but I want to live in a world where people can wear things as they like.

    And as for your argument about it being bullying, sorry, that one is too much of a stretch for me to support. Free speech means free speech.

    • Andrew Van Marm

      Believe it or not, but at a school there are no such things as civil liberties such as free speech. That’s because students are required to go there, so they can’t be subjected to anything that could be considered offensive.

      • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

         Anyone (if properly motivated) can take offense from just about anything. The shrieks of outrage from those persons with delicate emotional constitutions in this thread are evidence of that.
        Some ultra-Orthodox Jews and Muslims are offended by girls who aren’t covered head-to-toe. Should we accommodate them as well?
        Overuse of the term offensive will eventually render it meaningless.

        • Andrew Van Marm

          No school board is going to enforce burkas. It has to be reasonable.

      • Lazarus Long

         So they can’t be subjected to anything at all, then?  No one has the right to not be offended.  Our (meaning humanity’s) society should be one in which this kid can wear his shirt, and I can wear one saying that giving your life over to Bronze Age mythology is wasting it, and neither of us gets punished or shows up in the news for it.
        Of course, it’s not, and might never be, but that’s another discussion.

      • Fsq

        You are tilting at windmills w ith this one.

        The shirt is ridiculous, but it is not bullying nor offensive. Let the kid where the dumb ass shirt.

      • Kodie

         I think children are too protected. Bullying is a problem, but if we soften every hard edge and be too sensitive on their behalf, that’s a problem too.

        Bullying is not good, but let’s not cry “bully” at every insensitive remark. I don’t believe school is only for book-learning and grades, it’s a social environment where minors learn how to deal with conflict, mostly because they are compelled to go. Where else are they supposed to shape their feelings about how they fit into the world? If they are protected from every incident, that’s an opportunity lost for them to become a fully formed adult. You can’t really unleash 18-year-olds on the rest of the world with a complete retardation of their social skills, expecting the world to be nice to them, that would be a terrible thing, and I, for one, might have turned out a little better if I hadn’t been indoctrinated with the idea that school was for book-learning and nothing else matters. Everything else is really the more important component, but school policies like to be rigid, zero-tolerance, no distraction places.

        Schools have been made terrible places because parents take too much ownership of their own kids and don’t allow them to be shaped outside the home, and getting funding from how well students perform on tests that test facts that might get them a spot on Jeopardy. How prepared will they be for adulthood if we worry so much? Banning this t-shirt is like, when a toddler stumbles, they react how the parent reacts. If the parent has a sheer heart attack over it, the kid will wail, but if the parent does not panic, the kid will get over it quickly and learn how not to be a baby over every little thing. There is such a thing as an inappropriate t-shirt, but this is not. Teenagers like to express themselves and this is one kid’s personal expression on his own t-shirt. When I was in school, some kids liked Motley Crue. Schools write policies that ban things rigidly because it’s easier to ban things than talk about them. These things might not be on the curriculum but it is about life. Schools would be better if they had any relevance to real life.

  • Justin Miyundees

    The kid should be able to wear what he wants.  That is freedom of speech.  I find the sentiment insulting, true enough, but this is an individual – it’s not the state.

    Religion in school is only a problem when the government promotes it.  That’s a violation of the U.S. Constitution.  The school is making a big mistake here and the kid is within his rights.  Likewise an idiot in a “white power” shirt (being a teacher from the southern U.S., I saw A LOT of rebel flags, rebel flag t-shirts, bumper stickers, etc.) is within his rights too.  If it causes a disruption (like a race riot), that’s another issue.  Clearly there’d be a line crossed to wear a KKK shirt or a swastika, but this is a magical unicorn shirt. 

    Again, this is an individual – it’s not government sponsored prayer.

    • Justin Miyundees

      I remember the “It’s a black thing, you wouldn’t understand” t-shirts from the 90′s.  

      Would you call that bullying too?

      • MichaelD

        No I wouldn’t but I don’t see the 2 as equivalent. White people (myself included) aren’t always the most racially sensitive or recognize our privileges so I have a hard time finding anything bullying in that. 

        As to this T-shirt I’d say any bullying would depend on how he presented himself about it. Depending on his actions it could well be bullying or not.

        And yes we upstart Canadians decided we wouldn’t use the your whole constitution thing :P.

      • Thackerie

        I also remember the “It’s a black thing, you wouldn’t understand” t-shirts. I didn’t think of the slogan as bullying at the time — just racist, offensive and kind of stupid.

    • James

      The kid is Canadian, the US constitution does not apply.

    • edwin

      According to news reports the young man in question was asked several times by school officials not to wear that particular shirt to school. The fact that he refused to adhere to these requests is what got him suspended. School officials here in Nova Scotia have the authority to determine what is to be considered suitable or acceptable clothing if there has been complaints made by either students or teachers on the subject of a students clothing.(or a teachers for that matter) 

  • Patterrssonn

    I could see why they’d want to suspend him, he looks like a total dick, but what does his t-shirt do but make christians look even more assholish. I’m guessing other students probably made complaints, perhaps on the basis that it was offensive to their religions.

  • safarisal

    Sure, let him wear his shirt but hopefully Muslim, Jewish and Atheist kids etc. would be brave enough to wear shirts touting their own beliefs or lack of.  Brave because they are in a minority and  therefore subject to abuse.  But let’s see how accepting everyone is if all kids were encouraged to wear their own beliefs on their shirts.

  • Miko

    Normally I’m in favor of critical thinking, but sometimes there are cognitive shortcuts worth using automatically.  For example: if you’re on the opposite side of an issue from the ACLU, it means you’re wrong.  No analysis of special circumstances, etc., is necessary.

    • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

      So the ACLU is infallible? Even as a supporter (financially and morally) I find that hard to believe. Critical thinking always has its place. Sure, in this case the ACLU may be correct, but I just can’t accept that they’re infallible.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=684968309 Charles M Taylor

    This shirt is pretty inoffensive as far as these kinds of things go. I don’t agree with the statement, but I don’t really see any active hate being directed at non-Christians.

  • Ali

    I don’t even think it’s about Offensive vs. Inoffensive, to be honest; nor Freedom of Speech. I think you said it brilliantly, Hemant: ”
    School officials should have the right to stop students the moment they bring themselves up by putting others down. It’s just not the climate you want to foster in a high school. It also opens the door to an unwanted religious debate (in the guise of “freedom”) that doesn’t seem very conducive to learning.”

    School is for learning. Stupid distractions like this is a hindrance, I think.

    • Paige Jeffrey

       I can understand yours and Hemant’s point of view, but at the same time, your teenage years aren’t just for mentally absorbing your math textbook. They’re about growth and shaping who you’re about to become as an adult. An important part of that is philosophical and religious discussion. My exploration into religion during my teen years is what shaped me into the skeptical adult that I am. Kids should be allowed the freedom to discover themselves through various forms of expression, as long as they aren’t hurting anyone. (And the argument that the t-shirt is harmful is silly.)

      School is for learning, but there is more to learning than just schoolwork.

  • Dolphin11_98

    I agree with freedom of expression. What about when the tables are turned? I am an atheist who attended catholic school, I remember specific t-shirts being banned (Marilyn Manson, South Park, just 2 examples among many) they were offensive towards Christianity therefor were not allowed. I’m assuming this kid attends a public school? If that is the case, I don’t agree he should wear a shirt that promotes religion.

    • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

      At least here in the U.S., public schools (as well as the government itself) are supposed to be secular; religious displays by individuals on their own person are generally allowed. One exception in the case of public schools is if the expression becomes disruptive. Refusing to follow the demand that he take off the shirt counts.

  • F. Winter

    It’s worth noting that he wasn’t suspended because he wore this shirt, but because he was asked to change it (a common enough occurance in high school — Nova Scotia high schools have pretty strict dress policies) and refused. He was suspended, really, for defiance: he’d been repeatedly asked to remove his shirt. I gather, as well, that there were student and teacher complaints.

    This whole thing is, I’m sure, feeding into Swinimer’s Christian persecution complex.

    • ardtyks

      The persecution complex here is on those that found offense to the slogan on this t-shirt. The request to change an item of clothing is expected to have a valid reason with it. This one did not.

  • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Thomas Lawson

    I really hope a Twilight fan makes up a “Life is WASTED without Edward” t-shirt, just to see if they’ll crack down on ALL fictional characters…

  • http://northierthanthou.com/ nothierthanthou

    I think the distinction you are making is a good one, but I don’t know that it precisely matches the distinction between let him do it, and make him stop.

  • Richter10

    To all the students of other religions that attend that school.
    Be sure to get your own shirts made up to defend your own beliefs.
    Now we can bring a religious war of words to our schools. 
    That should divide our children and cause controversy rather than being taught facts and knowledge.If it’s alright for Christians to put down all other religions within a school, then it must be equally right for others to put down, stand up, and fight against Christianity.
    Let the religious wars reign in all our schools now and the hate will soon brew.This is the so call religious freedom they wanted and it’s going to be a mess. .  . l  Edit
    Reply

    • Andrew Van Marm

      I was hoping this was sarcasm. A school is no place for that, of all places…

      • Brian

        Andrew, if it’s ok for a Christian to go around and say that our lives  our wasted without a belief in Jesus, then it should be ok for others to defend their beliefs or non-belief. 
        Tell me I’m wasting my life and I’ll damn well send it back to you. The only other alternative is to ban religion and such disrespect remarks within schools. 
        But people would rather have the freedom of speech for children to say what they want in schools. So, if that is the way it is, and a war between religions beliefs occur, that is the price the people will have to pay. 

        In my opinion, schools are a place to learn facts and knowledge, not promote one’s personal religion.

          

        • ardtyks

          This young man’s t-shirt did not say that your ‘lives our wasted without a belief in Jesus’.  Your perception that it said that is on you, not on him. Persecution complex perhaps?

          • Richter10

            False.
            The shirt states that life is wasted without Jesus.
            And who is the message directed at?
            The reader.

            • ardtyks

              That message is a proclamation of self belief. It is not directed at the reader unless the reader puts that upon himself. 

              I was an atheist for a decade.  My son currently is one.  I have seen this type of hyper sensitivity in many that I am close to.  Another persons statement of opinion is not about you unless you make it that was. It is simply an affirmation of their belief.

              You are welcome to wear a t-shirt that says ‘Life is a waste with Jesus’ if you so choose.  That is not offensive either as it is about you and your belief for yourself.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    “It insults people who don’t believe in Jesus. It says very directly
    that they’re wasting their lives and that they’re worthless. It’s a
    form of bullying.”

    No it doesn’t.
    No it isn’t.

    • RubyCat

      It doesn’t say they’re worthless specifically. But it is telling people with different views that their lives are a waste.

      • Justin Miyundees

        That’s an insult.

        When I insult someone – that’s what I’m shooting for right there.  You’re existence is a complete waste.  Bingo.

      • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

         No, that is NOT what the shirt says. What the shirt SAYS and what it’s interpreted meaning is are two completely different things. I could just as easily say that life without classical music or life without sex is a waste. Is that insulting to you?
        Obviously the shirt reflects a point of view that is delusional and frankly idiotic, but stupid doesn’t necessarily translate into insulting.

    • Justin Miyundees

      Let the dumbass wear the shirt, but yes, that is an insult.  Just like it’s an insult to every Bhuddist, Muslim, Hindu, Jew, Zoroastrian, and Pastafarian to say you’ll burn in hell unless you “accept Jeebus as yer savory”.  It’s stupid, true, but it’s also an insult.

      • Vad

        Does it matter? Even saying “I’m atheist” is an insult to all those people, too, since it implies that we think they’re fundamentally mistaken about reality. (And the shirt doesn’t seem to do anything more than that – it’s just saying that if you’re not Christian, you’re missing the point of reality; it’s not even talking about hell.) And it’s pretty obvious that people do get offended by atheism, even without the threat of eternal punishment for people who don’t agree with us. I don’t know if it’s really productive or meaningful to call religious truth claims insults because our truth claims are just as insulting.

        • ardtyks

          Having lived as an atheist for 10 years myself (am no longer one) I have yet to see anyone up in arms when I or anyone close has mentioned being an atheist, unless the point was being pushed argumentatively.

      • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

        Nope. First off the shirt does NOT say nor IMPLY anything other than what it says. If you choose to read into the message and get butt-hurt, then that’s on you.
        Let’s say, for example, that I’m a big fan of chocolate. If I wore a shirt that said, “Life is wasted without chocolate”, you would actually find that offensive?
        Methinks a good number of folks in this thread need to get thicker skins.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    School officials should have the right to stop students the moment they bring themselves up by putting others down. It’s just not the climate you want to foster in a high school.

    I agree with this idea in principle, but I don’t see that really happening in this case.

    It insults people who don’t believe in Jesus. It says very directly that they’re wasting their lives and that they’re worthless. It’s a form of bullying.

    I don’t agree. I just don’t feel insulted by his statement, and I definitely don’t feel bullied.

    It would be a shame to wear out the word “bullying” by using it to describe such a tepid and bland negative statement as that, when we’re seeing kids viciously harrassed, intimidated, beaten, and driven to suicide or homicide in schools.

    (It’s also completely false — How many brilliant people have made contributions to our world without believing in Christian nonsense?

    Coming from your and my criteria for what is a worthwhile life, I would agree, but those criteria are not universal. This kid probably thinks that all that is irrelevant if life is lived without his savior and salvation, so “wasted” a subjective term.

    It’s a shirt anyone can refute with about 2 seconds of thought.)

    Yeah. So it’s not worth even two seconds of upset.

    • Andrew Van Marm

      You, I assume, are a grown man. You can’t say that because you’re not offended, a younger, more impressionable might be. Words can hurt, especially the less assured teenage variety.

      • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

         Some people are allergic to peanuts. Using your reasoning, we should all be crusading against peanut butter.
        Besides as has been noted over a billion times before, we don’t have a right to not be offended.

        • MichaelD

          You know of course they don’t want people bringing penut butter to school right :P

          • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

             In junior high and high school? Really? I thought that restrictions was just for elementary schools.

            • Brian

              If the peanut ban works in the elementary schools then kids with peanut allergies are going to not die and eventually progress to higher grades.

        • Andrew Van Marm

          Not the same thing, at all. It’s made very aware who is allergic to peanut butter or not, so peanut butter is kept away from them. You never, however,  who will take something someone said hard.

      • Paige Jeffrey

         Possibly, but only if he was using the t-shirt as a starting point to actually verbally bully others. Otherwise, exposing kids to different points of view (including the religious) is the best way in the long run to let them grow up as experienced, questioning, skeptical adults. Let him wear the shirt – and if he’s lucky, he’ll run into a young skeptic who introduces him to the other side of the story, so to speak.

        I would be less than impressed if it was an elementary school student wearing this shirt, but kids are already exposed to much, much worse these days once they hit their teens. Provocation isn’t the problem – actual bullying is the problem, and a t-shirt isn’t a form of bullying, it’s a form of expression.

        Unless there’s more to the story that we’re not hearing, I’m not seeing this as much of a problem at all.

    • Demonhype

      “I don’t feel insulted/bullied” isn’t a good justification that something isn’t bullying or insulting.  There are, after all, people who don’t think the security theater at the airport is a violation because “I don’t feel violated personally.”  There are black people and women who just don’t feel all that discriminated against, but that has never been a valid argument for the MRA’s or racism-deniers that racism or sexism just isn’t a problem.  The fact that a particular individual doesn’t feel insulted or bullied by something is not an indication that it is not insulting or bullying, or that such was not intended.

      I guess the fact is that when an atheist wears a shirt that simply states his/her atheism, these people get up in arms–and they don’t even have to have any kind of aggressive language, just some expression that atheists exist and aren’t evil.  Now if it was something more insulting, such as if an atheist had been walking through school with a “life’s a waste if you’re Christian” t-shirt, this thread would be filled with indignant complaints that “admitting your atheism is great and free speech and all, but you don’t have to be mean about it and suggesting that Christian lives are a waste is rude and insulting and bullying and totally not acceptable as school-related free speech!”

      Now if it was a “I love Jesus” or “Jesus is awesome”  or “Jesus saves” or “Ask me about my Christian beliefs” or some other dork-tastic Jesus-loving message that merely expresses the wearer’s general love of being Christian, I could see all the free speech arguments and whatnot and could easily say “ya know what, that’s the kid’s right to free speech, he loves Jesus, just let him be”.  But this message seems designed to antagonize and irritate and poke non-Christians with a sharp stick, which no one would hesitate to point out if it was the aforementioned atheist equivalent.  And if any atheist or non-Christian wore a tshirt with such a deliberately antagonistic message on it, there’s no way it would fly at any school and no way anyone would be justifying it even here.  I’m just glad to see the school taking a similar stance with the majority faith as well, rather than carving out special exemptions for popular viewpoints.

  • Dale MacDougall

    Being Nova Scotian born and raised I find this kind of religious nuttery kind of surprising. It’s not that common, at least when I was growing up. The kid is an attention whore and he shouldn’t wear the shirt at school. 

    • Vad

      Being from Texas and Oklahoma, I can’t imagine anyone even looking twice at this shirt. 

  • Fdd

    The school must not have the right to control students like this.

    • Onamission5

      In OKC, US, the school district has banned “satanic forms of dress” and all students have to sign an agreement accordingly. No punk or emo clothing, no unnatural hair, no rock band tshirts, or whatever else they’ve decided is “satanic.” I don’t see this as any different.

      Not that I think that OKC school districts are anything to which one should aspire, mind you.

  • Onamission5

    I’m vaguely put off by the wavy-word implication that anyone without jesus is wasted and everyone with jesus isn’t. The most wasted kids at my high school parties were always the PK’s, who relied on us non wasted heathens to drive them home and sneak them back in.

  • Bob Becker

    On this one, kid’s right, school’s wrong and so are you. When you define bullying down to the point where wearing a tee shirt like this one justifies punishment, you’ve not helped the campaign to stop it. HS and even middle schools are good places for young people to begin learnig that they do NOT and should not have an enforcible right not to be offended.

    • Vad

      Yes! This exactly. And we DO have a right to say that we think others are wrong. Bullying shouldn’t be defined just as making a claim that others disagree with.

      • Kodie

         I read the current code of conduct at the high school I attended, and they have 3 definitions (I paraphrase). 1. Joking – mutual fun, normal, and OK. 2. Teasing – antagonizing, non-mutual, annoying, just like it says on the tin. 3. Bullying – a physical and/or emotional threat carried on over time in which one student fears for their safety and diminishes their ability to concentrate in class or on their schoolwork at home.

        It goes on to define what forms bullying can take, but that it is an intentional pattern of intimidation.

        As far as, then, the dress code goes, this may be considered vulgar or rude, which is also subject to penalty, but free speech according to state and federal laws is not (supposed to be) infringed. That’s my school district in NY, USA, though. Schools are allowed to set their own rules and definitions, so this shirt may have violated the rules at his school. I would not go so far as to randomly associate a t-shirt with bullying. If someone had a t-shirt printed up: “I’m going to get you, Joe Schmo” with a picture of Joe, and the person wearing it was bullying Joe, and made up t-shirts for his friends, that would be a bullying t-shirt expression. Let’s not muddy the issues here with tone-trollish concerns on behalf of the youngsters.

  • Ian Reide

    I would go with the ‘free speech’ approach. You can say whatever you like, but then I am equally entitled to state that you are wrong, and claim the opposite. The shirt does not appear overly provocative or discourteous, to me. To call it ‘hate talk’ is ridiculous. 

    I would be tempted to wear a ‘Jesus Sux’ shirt at school, and see what happens.

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    These sorts of incidents are always complex, because there’s no clear distinction between the rights of students and the rights of a school to limit disruption.

    In fact, any t-shirt carrying a message is potentially disruptive. I think smart schools head this off with simple uniform or dress code requirements. In the U.S., at least, these have  consistently passed legal muster. At the simplest, no clothes or jewelry carrying a message. Now there’s no possibility of one view or another getting special treatment or special exclusion. Everybody is treated the same, end of problem.

  • Andrew Van Marm

    It’s a school. Students don’t have a choice to be there, so you can’t throw out something offensive like that. The last thing you want in a school is students being told they’re wasting their life. It’s the exact opposite of an environment a school needs to have. Gotta make it a safe, learning environment. He can wear that outside as much as he wants, though. That’s where “freedom of speech” plays out. 

    • Vad

      Who gets to decide what is offensive? A conservative Christian might be just as offended seeing an LGBT-affirming t-shirt, and complain that they shouldn’t be forced to be exposed to that. Basically any atheist t-shirt would at least be implying that a religious person is wasting their time being religious, so is that something that they shouldn’t be forced to see?

  • rickflick

     Let him off the hook.  I see nothing wrong with a  philosophical position on a t shirt.  As long as it is not racist or defamatory.  It’s just his position that he is a christian.  A Hindu or Muslim or atheist could make the same affirmation.  That’s fine.  Kids can differ.  Why not.

  • susanrubinsky

    Life is WASTED without Darwin.

  • TheAnalogKid

    Make them wear uniforms. Make them all dress the same.

    • Hibernia86

      I really hope that this is sarcasm.

      • Bob Becker

        There are not trivial reasons for mandating school uniforms.  I don’t know if TAK was making a serious case for school uniforms or not, but there’s a reasonable case to be made for them. 

        • Hibernia86

          I think the negatives of school uniforms outway the positives. First of all, it is deliberately designed to end freedom of speech when it comes to what you wear. I have shirts promoting Earth Day and shirts promoting the president. If I was still in high school, I’d want the chance to wear them. Second of all, uniforms require you to either double the size of your wardrobe (in order to have enough clothes for every school day) or wash your uniform every other day or so because you don’t have many of them (which will wear them out). If you don’t want to wear your uniform after school, it means you have to change your clothes after school and wear two different sets of clothing per day, which further increases your laundry load.

          • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

            Uniforms don’t have to be uniforms. It can be as simple as a dress code. In fact, schools that have implemented dress codes consistently report improvements in student behavior and academic performance.

            Seriously, what is more lame-ass than expressing yourself with a pithy t-shirt? That’s a terrible thing to teach. A school is not the public square, but is more akin to a work environment. There are expectations for behavior, appearance, and performance. School is the place where students should be learning to think clearly and express themselves by articulate speech and writing. Stupid t-shirts just detract from that goal.

            • Kodie

               I like the idea of uniforms. I don’t feel that it restricts speech or expression if it applies to everyone. With so many t-shirts that might say something, who gets to decide which ones say appropriate things and which ones are inappropriate? There is a lot of gray area as to taste. Clothing is not the only form of expression, and I think it might help if there were more classes in logic and debate, a chance for students to use tools of language to express themselves. T-shirts can sometimes limit one’s expression by boiling it down to a one-liner and defines one’s beliefs by looking at them instead of opening up the lines of communication. It’s for that reason I really don’t like bumper stickers and I rarely choose to wear a t-shirt that says something, be it A+F, my college, I <3 Kitties, or I'm with Stupid. I'm not on board with a full-scale ban on them, but in the interest of developing young minds, I don't see anything wrong with uniforms so one learns how to communicate and how not to judge people before speaking and listening to them. This would be a great association with academic work that people seem to prioritize. Make it mean something, don't cut it off with certain arbitrary limitations on how some students may choose to dress.

              Wearing it on your person says "this is something I stand for" and limits expression as much as it frees it, because people will form assumptions, which are really prejudices. If one allows for this t-shirt, one should allow for a variety of views, and there are cases for that as well. I just don't think uniforms are a punishment, unless they are itchy.

      • TheAnalogKid

        Whatever do you mean?

        • Hibernia86

          See my response to Bob Becker

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

    I don’t have a problem with the shirt. If I would support an atheist student who wanted to wear a “God is Imaginary” shirt (and I would), then I think it’s only fair that Christian students be able to wear clothing that expresses their belief that their religion is superior.

  • Sayswhotwo

    He
    was suspended for defying the principals request that he stop wearing the
    t-shirt, after complaints.
    There appears to be another side to the story that
    I’ve seen in a few comments on the news articles, blogs, etc…Some are saying
    that this kid has been harassing other students by proselytising them and
    saying they would burn in hell if they did not chose Jesus. The t-shirt was the
    last straw for some who finally complained….don’t know if it’s true but it
    appears that this is more complicated that just a t-shirt.

    • Paige Jeffrey

       That’s a much more justifiable reason than just the t-shirt in and of itself.

    • ardtyks

      It is more complicated than a t-shirt.  This young man is a passionate Christian and was unpopular for those beliefs. You can well imagine the rise any student that chose to could get out of him. He was probably annoying, but so are many students. Instead of addressing this issue, however, the school administration chose to bully him with regard to this t-shirt.  They had a teachable moment and missed it, instead targetting this young man.  They were wrong.

  • Renshia

    So if I am getting the tone of things here… I guess we should kick the shit out of him for being an ass, then when he gets to school, protest with him for not being allowed his right to freedom of speech.

    Hell, I am good with that…

  • Annie

    A couple of years ago, the high school down the block had kids show up with shirts that read, “Islam is of the Devil”.  The students were sent home, and an attorney was quoted in the local paper as saying, “the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in several cases that public schools may quash speech deemed disruptive ‘even if it steps on the other child’s free speech rights.’”

    The result?  All students in our county must now wear solid colored polo shirts to school, with solid colored pants.  I’m sad that my child has lost her ability to dress and express herself as she would like simply because some students decided they would make a religious statement at school.  In the grand scheme of things, however, it’s really not a big deal. I personally think it is more important that every student feels welcome and accepted at school than anything else. 

    So this morning, when my daughter was getting ready to leave on a 3 day field trip, she was excited that she didn’t have to follow dress code.  She chose her most cozy t-shirt, as she prepared for a 6 hour bus ride.  Her shirt had six symbols of the world’s most prominent religions on it.  In the bottom right hand corner, in another color of ink, was a peace sign, with an arrow pointing to it and the words, “My religion” next to the arrow.   We actually discussed whether or not it was appropriate.  We decided that yes, it was, as it didn’t say anything bad about the religions featured on the shirt, the t-shirt simply implied that the wearer favored peace over anything else. 

    As for the “life is wasted without Jesus” shirt, it certainly doesn’t bother me, and I find it rather innocuous.  But honestly, it’s not about me.  It’s about the other kids at the school, and whether or not that shirt would make them feel unwelcome or unaccepted.  It’s a tough call, but since it is important to me that every child feel they are a part of the community of school, I would err on the side of caution and say no to the shirt.  As a teacher, I have seen how simple things like t-shirt slogans can disrupt precious learning time.  It’s just not worth it. 

  • AtheistPowerlifter

    The
    kid is a douche, and is known for wearing the shirt day after day for weeks at
    a time and openly prostletyzing in the hallways (I’m from Halifax, about an
    hour from this school…it’s been non stop debate on the radio talk shows). He
    was interviewed on air, and admitted as such. He was very well spoken, and
    talked at length about how this issue was “bigger than him and the
    school” and how he “spread the word of christ with love and deeply
    respects all other religions”…gag, and dishonest. He’s an evangelical. I wonder if he ever read Matthew 6: 5
    - 7. Anyways…

    The
    school admin told him he could continue to wear the shirt, he just had to add
    “My” to the start of the shirts phrase. He refused – most likely
    because that is not want he wants to say. He wants attention and to be a
    “martyr”. His pastor was also interviewed, and wants the kid to keep wearing the shirt (and other christian students as well! Stop persecuting Christians!), because – y’know – Jesus would take a dive in popularity if this kid didn’t wear a fucking shirt.

    I
    think he’s a delusional, but I defend his right to wear the shirt. What’s
    amazing to me are the comments of the callers on the radio…a large number of
    them asserted that – if the kid had been wearing a pro-Islam or some such
    T-shirt – he would have been “celebrated by all the left wing pinko
    fucksticks” up here in PC canada (okay maybe I added
    “fucksticks”…that was the tone though). There were also MANY
    comments about how the world was ending because we can’t say Merry Christmas
    anymore or make kids say the Lord’s prayer…because golly gee even in our
    charter of human rights it mentions GOD doesn’t it?? (I would ask WHICH GOD,
    but apparently I am just an antagonistic atheistic dickhead…as I was told by
    a co-worker during a water-cooler discussion).

    I
    have no idea where this deluded idea comes from. A kid with a “Life is
    wasted without Allah” T-shirt would probably be run out of the school (not
    a lot of diversity in the small towns up and down the coast). At least I am led
    to believe that according to how I am received in most places as an open
    atheist.

    One
    positive thing is that at least it stirred up a hornets nest of debate, and
    forced unbelievers to speak out as a necessity to repel all the theistic
    ignorance.

    AP

    • AxeGrrl

      At least I am ledto believe that according to how I am received in most places as an openatheist.

      I feel for you (my father’s family is from Nova Scotia, so i’m familiar with the greater-than-average racism, religiosity, etc)

      You can always come to Ontario, where this atheist has never felt any stigma or negative attention because of my atheism :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/ThomasWobby Thomas Wobby

    I like how Center for Inquiry spells their name “Centre” in Canada. 

    • Kenneth Dunlap

      Considering that is the accurate spelling of the word…

  • Hibernia86

    I generally try to lean toward free speech when possible. If a kid wore a shirt that said “Fags will burn in Hell!” or “Being religious is a mental disorder!” I would defend their freedom of speech as much as I could.

  • Mary

    As a parent, this post gives me good reason to develop a great relationship with my child. When a kid in her school wears a shirt like this one day, I hope she will want to bring it up as a topic of conversation, and we can talk about how sad it is that someone doesn’t understand the great opportunity and responsibility of existence…that a kid would be so blinded by dogma that he would devalue the lives and contributions of millions of brilliant, caring people who have come before him, along with the hundreds who are in school with him. The last thing I would want would be to make the kid remove his shirt. We will all be challenged with beliefs that we don’t agree with in life. There will be kids (or adults) sitting next to us in nearly every situation who think differently than we do. What better place to learn how to deal with conflicting ideas than in school? Why is this one kid such a powerful threat to others that what is printed on his shirt is so important?

  • Hibernia86

    I heard there were schools in New York city that were banned from using the word “birthday” in tests because it might offend the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I say stand up for free speech.

  • TiltedHorizon

    Wow Hemant…. I find myself disagreeing with you. I find the statement, “Life is wasted without Jesus” no more or less confrontational than “I can be good without god”. We grip over how poorly Christians handle our messages, how is this not equally petty?  I don’t know the law in Nova Scotia but I support an individual’s right to faith and any passive forms of expression it may take; it is after all, free speech. I don’t agree with the message but I applaud Swinimer for standing up for his convictions. Should my son ever be told to remove his, ‘Darwin fish’ tee-shirt I hope he takes the same stance. 
     

  • Marco Conti

    Naturally, I don’t agree and I dislike the message on the shirt, but if the school doesn’t have any prior restrictions or dress code, than it falls under freedom of speech.

    Of course, when I show up the next day with a “Life without Jesus is GREAT!!” shirt, I don’t want to hear any Christians say a thing.

  • Servaas

    Ja, this is ridiculous. It is like banning someone wearing a shirt that says: ‘Life is wasted without [insert favourite sports team's name]‘. In context (not knowing Swinimer’s character and normal behaviour myself of course) the statement celebrates his life now no longer wasted as it was or would’ve been without Jesus, and therefore it is even reasonable for him to believe other lives without Jesus are still being wasted. Let the atheists celebrate atheism, let Christians celebrate Jesus. What has life come to anyway if you can’t even tell people they’re wrong anymore? What happened to people disagreeing about things? Are we not allowed to have different opinions anymore? Definitely not hate speech.

  • Marella

    I find the T-shirt offensive but I find the smug expression of the wearer even more offensive.

    • Mdapritchard

      Yes, agreed. I was wondering when I’d get to a comment on this. Smug is precisely the word.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/OffensivAtheist bismarket

    I get the feeling (at least from the pic’) that he’s loving this attention. If he misses a lot of school or Gets held back, he’s almost guaranteed a job as a pastor after school as they like keeping them dumb for Jesus!

    • Lm Mackenzie96

      God love you <3

      • https://twitter.com/#!/OffensivAtheist bismarket

        While i appreciate the sentiment (I’m assuming your not being smug yourself), i feel my remark was pretty current considering the Texans (again?) have proposed a law requiring that schools stop teaching pupils to think critically, lest they stray from Jesus by thinking too much. Pretty much proves my point> (& yes i’m being a little smug) Peace.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

    My feeling about the shirt is somewhat like Aldo Raine’s view of the Nazi Uniform in the movie Inglorious Basterds. I want people to make their bigotry visible for everyone to see. That way you know who to avoid.

    “One day you’re going to take that shirt off, and that I can’t abide”

  • MakeTheMostOfLife

    Seriously…

    Amazed everyone here getting there knickers in such a twist over such a non event. It’s a stupid T-Shirt so what. Let the kid wear it… Make his point, and embarrass himself.

    So what that it’s a school. To my memory school was a pretty tough place & some one wearing a t shirt like that would probably get beat up. I’m not saying that the kid should get beat up, but let the kid wear it and deal with the verbal or psyical repercussions from the rest of the students. Lots of comments here act like this kid is 10 or something. He is 19, him and his fellow students do not need protection from ideas at that age.

    Calling this hate speech is a spectacular own goal… It’s not even specifically targeting anyone as hate, and calling a wasted life hate makes a complete mockery of actual hate speech and utterly undermines the whole system.

    Acting like the school did just turned this idiot into a crusading hero, for the church punks to rally behind.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    that’s just obviously disrespectful. I’ve gone through the public school system here in Canada and free speech doesn’t fly in school if it’s disrespectful to your peers.

    • BamaGirl1

      People are so offended by this because is strikes a nerve with people.  It is what the child believes….is it his problem if you take it personal and it makes you think???

      • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

        Whether someone takes it personal or not doesn’t really matter. It’s a disrespectful statement printed in a shirt. It would be just as disrespectful if he were going around orally saying it to people. You can’t be disrespectful like that in high school. If he’s allowed to do that, everyone is. It creates a hostile working environment.

        • ardtyks

          This statement is not disrespectful unless you believe it is about you. That belief is ON you.  Children, even high school teenagers, should be expected to learn that rather than having thought police as administrators to run to to do their dirty work.

          • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

            Yes it is. It’s disrespectful to anyone who lives their life without Jesus. Go troll somewhere else.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

    High school dress codes are unfair to everybody, and that’s only fair.  We would need to have the exact wording of the dress code to know if this suspension fit the stated criteria.    Rules are there to reduce the instances of  kids  slamming each other’s heads into lockers.   I suspect it was unnecessary for this kid to wear that shirt anyway- everybody probably already knows that he’s a pompous jerk.
    High school dress codes have to err on the side of overkill because teen culture is constantly evolving.  One day a bandanna print is part of  a Bobbie Brooks outfit, the next it’s a gang sign.

    A cute comeback might be a shirt  with   “Wasted lives:    Andrew Carnegie, Richard  Strauss,  Linus Pauling,  Alan Turing, Francis Crick, Warren Buffet”

  • Liam

    Reports from other students in the school (I’m from NS) indicate this particular student wore the shirt  for weeks straight, and tied it to a pattern of behaviour that included harassing exchange students about their religion ON THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, constantly telling people they’re going to hell, and other proselytizing.  Apparently he has a closet full of faith-based t-shirts, (some of which got compliments) and this one got a rise, so he settled on it as the only shirt he would wear.  

    • Onamission5

      Nothing like scratching around in a premeditated effort to find just that one thing which will piss the most people off, harping incessantly upon that one thing once you find it, and then crying persecution because you got exactly what you wanted, eh?
       
      The more I read, and the more I have to look at his smug face, the more I think he worked really hard for and earned his suspension, and then some.  I see a tv preacher in the making.

      • ardtyks

        I worked in a couple of schools with teens for a number of years.  The more that I read the more that I find it easy to see that this boys views were not popular and that comments like these two before this are about just that – gossip and the decision that his unpopular opinions makes him deserving of being bullied and complained about. Students have the right to free speech.  If kids did not like what he was saying then they should have walked away, rather than finding a reason to target him and bringing the staff in on it.

  • http://thefloatinglantern.wordpress.com/ Tim Martin

    I’m surprised that Hemant has taken such an anti-free speech stance here – and also happy that many of the commenters have disagreed with him.

    In the United States at least, expressing an opinion and/or putting somebody down are both protected speech. Offensive, controversial, and ignorant speech are still protected. I wrote about the case law on this on my blog, after the “Jesus costume at Fictional Character Day” incident, so anyone can check that out for more information. But, in short, William Swinimer’s speech (T-shirt) would constitute protected speech, under US law at least.

    And I do think this is a good thing. The correct response to offensive bullshit is either to ignore it, or to use more speech to fight it. Silencing people does not work.

    Nor is there any reason to treat schoolchildren differently as far as free speech is concerned. We should treat them the same as adults so that they learn to understand the principles behind free speech. As the Supreme Court has written on this subject:

    “That [Boards of Education] are educating the young for citizenship is reason for scrupulous protection of Constitutional freedoms of the individual, if we are not to strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes.”

    Exactly. Constitutional freedoms do not end at school property. We are educating future minds in these principles!

    Hemant seems to be worried about bullying, but a free speech exception in cases of harassment already exists (as I agree that it should). The harassment exception is what allows us to protect gay kids when a massive onslaught of derision is aimed at them – when free speech piles on to the point where people are being oppressed. (this PDF by the ACLU of Wash. State explains it well). But there was no harassment in this case (one person insulting another is not enough), so Hement’s objection doesn’t hold water. Swinimer’s speech should be protected.

    • Onamission5

      It seems from reading the comments that the wearing of the shirt was part of a pattern of disruptive and harrassing behavior, rather than a one time thing. As part of his revolving wardrobe, I take few issues with the occasional wearing of his silly shirt. As part of a pattern of attention seeking and annoying behavior, trying to find just the right shirt to provoke just the right level of controversy and complaint as to get him (and his church leader) a radio interview, I do take issue with that. If indeed he was doing the additional things of which he’s been accused, under those circumstances I’d have to side with the school.

  • Brian

    If free speech is what you want, and war of religious beliefs occur in our schools that in turn brews hate among the students, then that is the price you’ll have to pay.
    One religion damning and putting down the other over a belief in an invisible friend. 
    Let the madness begin.   

    • BamaGirl1

      The children are learning hate from the parents beliefs, and dude, religious warfare began well before this kid wore this shirt.  

      • Richter10

        From Bamagirl1:
        The children are learning hate from the parents beliefs, and dude, religious warfare began well before this kid wore this shirt.

        My reply: Religious warfare is caused by religions memes themselves, period.

  • Piet Puk

    I am in no way offended by this. If he wants so bad to display his close-mindedness this proudly, let him. I don’t care.

  • Richter10

    A school is no place to promote one’s personal religion.
    If you think it is, then in my opinion you’re an idiot and irresponsible.
    It is a place specifically built for people to teach and learn facts and knowledge.     
    It is NOT a place to billboard for Jesus.

    • BamaGirl1

      Then why can almost any other religion wear the clothes respected within their religion?  It is just because he is a Christian?  I noticed you mentioned no other comment about any other religion, with the exception of school NOT a place to billboard for Jesus.  Also, if it is specifically built for people to teach and learn facts and knowledge, then why is every other religion covered in the history books (in depth, I might add) but Christianity in the smallest paragraph on the very last page of the chapter?  I don’t know what religion you practice, or even if you do, but how many haters do you have.  The Christian community has spent decades “turning the other cheek” so as to not offend anyone or give them a reason to turn away from Christ.  The Bible is not even viewed a a respectful document of history that can be studied in school,  but I remember learning about other religions.  I encourage you to pick up a Bible.  “These three things will last forever-faith, hope and love–the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
      People are so focused on I, that true love – love of your brother, no matter the color, just that he is another God created human being has been lost.
      “Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.” Romans 12:14
      Also, no man is perfect – not even the best Bible reading/praying/Church going Christian – we all make mistakes.  We all need to realize that we should care about the eternal life of mankind.  No, not everyone will be reached by Christ’s Words.  For example, Matthew 7:6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.  If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you pieces.”  That means I may absolutely pour my heart out to you, but you then might turn and make fun of me or persecute me until death.  
      There are things that offend me, but I pray about them.  I do not outwardly to other men and women tear that human being to pieces.

      • Richter10

        @Bamagirl1
        It doesn’t matter if he’s a Christian or not.
        It about the message on the individual’s shirt that’s directed at the reader.
        Place the shirt on a Jew or a Muslim and I’ll state the same response.
        So you can stop with this nonsense of Christian persecution crap.
        And by the way. Quoting scripture will get you absolutely nowhere.

        • ardtyks

          The persecution complex here is being displayed by those that insist on reading the t-shirt as being directed at them.

          • Richter10

            From ardtyks: This young man’s t-shirt did not say that your ‘lives our wasted without a belief in Jesus’. Your perception that it said that is on you, not on him. Persecution complex perhaps?

            My reply: FALSE.
            THe shirt’s message is directed at THE READER you idiot. It’s specifically directed at anyone who does NOT have Jesus in their lives.
            Are you that stupid?

            • ardtyks

              Whoever guest is – you mention ‘people like me’ and assume I am in a religious cult or group.  Why so? I was an atheist.  I am agnostic. I belong to no church or group. I have an atheist son who wears provocative slogans on his t-shirt and I see no difficulty with his declarations either as I do not see them as aimed at anyone. I am not that insecure. 

              Richterio, I see insults of ‘stupidity’ start if one doesn’t agree with you.  That is a very tolerant attitude you are displaying.

              • Richter10

                From ardtyks: Richterio, I see insults of ‘stupidity’ start if one doesn’t agree with you.  That is a very tolerant attitude you are displaying.

                My reply: They’re not insults, if I’m merely stating a fact. 

          • Richter10

            False.
            The message on the shirt is clear and only an idiot would attempt to re-interpret it as something else.
            It says Life is wasted without Jesus.
            And who’s life is the shirt’s message directed at?
            The READER.

          • Richter10

            @ardtyks.
            There is no persecution by those that read the shirt.
            It’s just that we are sick and tired of people like you who disrespect others who are not within your religious cult and group.
            The public is now fighting back.
            Take your disrespectful religion and shove it.

      • Salty

        Oh honey.  Quoting scripture will just make us ignore your entire comment.

      • AtheistPowerlifter

         @BamaGirl1

        Most of the garb that you would consider “religious” is actually cultural.  The koran does not require a Niqab or Hijab to be worn…this is a cultural thing. It has simply been absorbed into – and become a signifying meme of – their religion.

        The same is true of the yarmulke (kippah) in judaism. It is simply a symbol of piety.

        I believe Sihkism is the only religion that makes mandatory the wearing of a piece of religious clothing – the turban.

        But to compare this lame T-shirt to a turban is nonsensical. Have christians been wearing “life is wasted without jesus” t-shirts for hundreds of years?

        This kid is a dick, is taking advantage of the insulated high school environment, and is hiding behind the secular tolerance for religion.

        AP

  • Lamocla

    My life is not wasted because I don’t have Jesus. His message is clear and siimple. This is not free speech as we see it in Canada, it is hate. You American don’t have a clue between free speech and hate speech. No wonder your country is so screw up. You have a host of talk show idiots who feeds on hate speech and you see it as acceptable. The world as to many Neanderthal as we can see by the comments on this very board. Until the day we as human understand the difference between free speeçh and hate speech, we will continue in our destructive ways instead of moving forward.

    • JWH

       You American don’t have a clue between free speech and hate speech

      Troll much?  

    • ardtyks

      This is not hate speech.  The slogan is not even insulting unless you are determined to read it that way.  That is on you, not the person wearing the shirt.

  • LifeInTraffic

    If, as it has been stated by other posters, the shirt wasn’t the primary reason for his suspension but rather the last straw to curb his proselytizing and bullying (and yes, telling other children they’re going to hell *is* bullying, though this shirt alone isn’t, IMHO), I wonder if Hemant could edit the article to reflect the rest of the situation more accurately?  

    It might make for a more relevant discussion, as I suspect many here would view active promotion of religion and harassment of other students because of a religion in a bit of a different light than just wearing a t-shirt, and it appears that really might not have been the issue anyway.

    • Kodie

      If there is a pattern of disruptive behavior (of any kind), then it deserves suspension. If it’s just about the t-shirt, it deserves discussion. Even if, as you say, the t-shirt was the “last straw,” his suspension should not give anyone any idea that it was only about the t-shirt. If it were only the t-shirt, I still don’t understand. Bullying seems to cause too much sensitivity. It is like sexual harassment – it really does exist, but it is powerfully modified in the public perception as any time some whiner doesn’t like something, it’s against the law. Does this shirt create a hostile school environment, or does it just raise an eyebrow? Should we fail children by categorizing every little butthurt into full-blown bullying, instead of opening up for discussion real issues that people should have an opportunity to talk about – with people other than their parents. There’s a culture forming that believes all children have to be shielded vigilantly, so that magically when they graduate high school, their adultness forms from nothing, no confrontations, no dilemmas, no personal trials. How does that work? I don’t think the t-shirt, if it is only part of a pattern, should even be highlighted as the incident that got a student suspended. It makes a mockery of real bullying and incidents of disruptive behavior, and only makes Christians (or anyone of any belief or atheism, or any other thing anyone stands for) have another example of how powerfully they are persecuted. So “only a t-shirt”=”bullying” forms a myth. How reasonable is it to avoid conflict by pretending there is none?

      • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

         Bravo. I couldn’t agree more.

      • Kodie

        Myself:

        Even if, as you say, the t-shirt was the “last straw,” his suspension
        should not give anyone any idea that it was only about the t-shirt.

        Or even the content of his pattern of disruption. Disruption can be about anything, and this is anything. If there’s a penalty for disruption, it should not give anyone a reason to feel triumphantly persecuted anymore than someone drumming on the desks during class or ranting about cafeteria food in the library, or what have you.

        • LifeInTraffic

          I totally agree. When I first read the article, I thought Hemant was too quick to say “bullying,” because the t-shirt isn’t, IMO. Stupid and disruptive, possible, but not “bullying.” As you suggest, I don’t want to see that word applied willy-nilly to things that aren’t. 

          Upon reading more about the whole story, which appears is not really about the t-shirt itself but about the continuing disruption it–because of the behavior of the behavior of the wearer who seems to have been proselytizing and harassment of other students–caused in school, I can see it as part of an overall pattern of actual bullying by the wearer. 

          • LifeInTraffic

            Sorry about the double “of the behavior.” Formatting whoops!

    • ardtyks

      I worked in a couple of schools with behavioural and challenged students. This young man had an unpopular view. I very much doubt that he told others they were ‘going to hell’ without first their instigation. I would be careful of deciding who was bullying who here. My money would be on the other students and staff members deciding this vocal person with an unpopular view ‘deserved’ to be silenced.

      • Richter10

        That is complete nonsense.
        The young man had a view that people’s lives were wasted without Jesus in them. 
        He spoke it loud and clear with a large message on his shirt directed at the reader.
        And now he’s getting a just response.
        Don’t like it?
        Too bad, welcome to 2012.

  • Richter10

    If a person wears a shirt telling me my life is a waste without Jesus, and people maintain that it’s a personal right to do so, then I equally have a right to tell them to go fuck themselves, you ignorant and delusional  moron.

    Now if people don’t like that, then too bad. You want free speech then you got it. And if others think the shirt is not insulting or hateful, then that too is too bad, because it’s completely subjective to whoever is on the receiving end. And therein lies the problem. 

    Insult me, and I’ll damn well send it back to you in full force.

    • AxeGrrl

      You nailed it.   Kudos :)

  • JWH

    Canadian school, Canadian rules.  But as a general proposition, I think he’s perfectly within his rights to wear this shirt.  Freedom of expression.

  • davidamusick

    Substitute “Jesus” with any other interest or hobby and see if it’s still offensive.

    “Life is wasted without football.”

    “Life is wasted without reading good books.”

    Religion is something people do, essentially a hobby. The child is declaring his love for his hobby and his belief that others are wasting their life unless they participate in the hobby he loves.

    He may be wrong about that, but that is his opinion.

  • Give me a break

    This is the most laughable article ever. Wearing a t-shirt is a form of bullying? Give me a break. 

    Just as pathetic to count this as bullying as it is to say Christians are oppressed in America. 

  • http://godlessandsouthern.wordpress.com/ MattyP

    I can’t say I think this kid should have been suspended for his shirt. Freedom of speech means that we have to deal with opinions that we don’t agree with, and insulating kids from different opinions is a guaranteed way to get whiny, entitled kids who don’t know how to think or argue for themselves.

    And no, wearing a shirt that expresses a negative opinion about a religious belief (how would you feel if this was about a “God Is Dead” shirt?) does not in any way approach the targeted, persistent harassment that constitutes bullying.

    Let’s be better about picking our battles.

  • Truthy Ted

    Until schools remove the right to wear pants with “juicy” or “sexy” written across the butts, AND the FCUK shirts, AND the shorty shorts that barely cover any sort of underwear, no one has any right to be offended by this t-shirt slogan.  

  • MichaelD

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