Bad Jesus, No Candy: Illinois School Does About-Face When Student Dresses as Savior for Halloween

If you like comedy, there is much to love about this news story of a teenager who dressed up as Jesus for Halloween — starting with his mom’s penchant for inadvertent punnery.

17-year-old Marshon Sanders stepped into Highland Park High School Thursday morning wearing a white toga, red sash, sandals, a giant cross necklace and a crown of thorns.

He nailed it,” [said] proud mom Angenetta Frison.

Marshon and his mom had made the costume together after she’d instructed him to choose a Halloween character representing “success and positivity.” It didn’t take Marshon long to decide.

The Christian deity is something of a superhero for this deeply religious teen. Sanders made a conscious decision to get baptized over the summer. The mother and son are members of the Jesus Name Apostolic Church in Waukegan.

Officials at the school, which has a policy against “costumes that could be offensive or perpetuate a stereotype of someone’s culture, gender, sexual orientation, heritage or religion,” first pulled Marshon out of class and told him to remove the costume. They reversed their decision later that day after they determined Marshon was not trying to be offensive. (Presumably, a diehard Life of Brian fan in the exact same costume would have been told to take off the garb for good.)

With the initial move to ban the Jesus outfit, Highland Park High School handed Marshon and other Christians a perfect little gift: proof of their “persecution.” True to form, the teen declined to put the costume back on even after he’d been belatedly given the all-clear.

I love this picture of Marshon and a schoolmate, by the way:

No word on whether any Zeus lovers were outraged by the offensive costume on the left.

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • badgerchild

    I used to go out with the kids for fun long after I was too old to be an actual trick-or-treater. That was back when an older teen or college-age person was trusted to chaperone a herd of youngsters. I usually dressed as some sort of tongue-in-cheek interpretation of a “person in charge” such as a shepherdess, a tour guide, or a zookeeper. One year I dressed as a nun. I think the Catholics in the neighborhood all wet their pants laughing.

  • AFabulousAtlantanAtheist

    I always found the concept of persecution espoused by my Catholic church youth group odd because I never experienced or observed such occurring at my public high school. The youth group leaders were adamant that if you admitted you were a Christian, specifically Catholic, that you were going to be persecuted to the extreme (Kids would make fun of you, mock you, etc.). We would even have plays were we would reenact a situation at school were you would be persecuted and how for the Christians should handle it. This whole time they then condoned the persecution of people based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

    • Carla

      I was always told the same thing, but then I wore openly Christian shirts to school, and no one batted an eye. I think that was when I started to wonder….

      • GubbaBumpkin

        So wearing Christian clothing was the beginning of your deconversion? Isn’t it ironic?

    • Feminerd

      Huh, we did that in youth group too. Sort of. We were all Jewish in the Bible Belt, and most of us had at least one story of actual religious bigotry or shocking ignorance (yes, I’ve had actual real people say things like “do you have horns” or “wait, you’re Jewish? That means you don’t believe in Jesus? How can you not believe in Jeesus?”). We shared the stories, we shared the proselytizing attempts and what we said back, we giggled at the inanities of our Christian classmates.

      Of course, we didn’t condone proselytizing back or even bullying back. Just, um, reactive stuff. If they came after you with this argument, you can respond with that argument and it’ll make them shut up and leave you alone.

  • Timmah

    Why would Jesus be wearing a crucifix? That would be like dressing up as JFK and wearing a mini high powered rifle around your neck.

    • albinogoth

      Well, a full sized cross was a little difficult to obtain and carry around. This way he can carry his cross! :D Also helpful for IDing purposes.

      • Zark Muckerberg

        ID? Holes in his hands and feet should do the trick.

        • Paula M Marshall

          Wrists. Not hands. Legend is wrong.

          • Wyrd Wiles

            If we’re going for historical accuracy, he was probably TIED to the cross.

            • michael denis Carlin

              if your looking for historical accuracy jesus did not excist he was made up by Caesar to control the masses

              • Wyrd Wiles

                ^– I see somebody has downed Joseph Atwill’s Kool-aid :)
                (J.K.- In all honesty I’m all for questioning the historicity of Christ, but Atwill is a nutbag…)

      • smrnda

        A cross made from painted styrofoam might be manageable. Though I don’t think it would hold the weight of a crucified would-be messiah.

        • Dan Dorfman

          (Jesus falls on the ground)
          Centurion: “You get off free this time Jesus….”

          • Wyrd Wiles

            *Said Centurian kicks a little box that says “Made in Galacia.”*
            “Darn knock-offs…Don’t make them like they used to…”

      • Holytape

        Actually that is the cross that he was crucified on. Just add water.

        • Stephanie Austin

          Would that be the what was it, the 40 foot cross mentioned in the bible? :-)

        • Kevin_Of_Bangor

      • Gerry Mooney

        I’ve often thought of dressing as JC and the cross would be in a cross-shaped leatherette briefcase with a nice handle on the side. I may just do that next year!

    • Sven2547

      You and your logic are not welcome here, sir. :P

    • Brian Westley

      Hmm, what if he wore a cross with a little Jesus crucified on it, and that tiny Jesus was wearing a cross with an even tinier Jesus, etc. etc…

      • Zark Muckerberg

        Xibit approves.

      • ElDouchee

        mind = blown

      • h2ocean

        It’s Jesuses all the way down.

      • Jarr


      • Vertigayle

        Existential Jesus…

      • Hungry Heathen

        Fractal Jesus.

      • Gerry Mooney

        He *should* have had the Sacred Heart logo, a Valentine’s heart wrapped in a crown of thorns, that goes right where Superman has his “S”. A right cheery little symbol!

      • Michael Paul Goldenberg

        Wait. And that means that one little molecule in Little Jesus’ fingernail could be a whole universe. . .

        Can I buy some relics from you?

    • The Captain

      You should probably cite the great Bill Hicks when you use one of his jokes on the internet as your own.

      • Timmah

        HAH! Well that’s the first I’ve ever seen that, so no that joke was from the dark recesses of my own mind. You know what they say about great minds thinking alike.

        Next time I will go with MLK or Abraham Lincoln.

      • Jackie Riley

        I didn’t read this comment and said the same thing 2 minutes ago.

    • Jackie Riley

      Way to steal Bill Hicks’ joke.

      • Timmah

        As I said earlier, I somehow managed to “Steal” the joke of a comedian who I have not only never heard of or watched preform, but who as also been dead for 20 years.

        A rather neat trick if I do say so myself.

        • Jackie Riley

          “but who as also been dead for 20 years” what relevance does this even have? Kurt Cobain has been dead for almost 20 years, does that mean people shouldn’t know his songs? I guess there’s a cutoff limit, eh? dope. I don’t buy that you’ve never heard of Hicks, especially with your “neat trick” line. Why would it be a “neat trick?” you stole a dude’s joke and are pretending to not know who he even is instead of just owning up to you. I didn’t realize someone could be so corny. Here, if you need another line of his to steal and pretend you never heard it before this is from his IMDB: On the theft of his material by Denis Leary: “I have a scoop for you. I stole his act. I camouflaged it with punchlines, and to really throw people off, I did it before he did.”

    • Mick

      Apparently it was an idea he had been pushing for a long time before his death:

      Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24)

    • Timothy McLean

      You’re applying logic to a religious symbol that has been quite thoroughly mocked ever since there were enough people in Christian cultures who didn’t believe in this Christ guy.

  • Art_Vandelay

    I dressed as Jesus for Halloween this year as well but unlike Marshon, I was absolutely trying to offensive. At least I knew not wear a frickin’ cross though. What a horrible Jew!

    • flyb

      Me, too. Sort of. I wore the beard and wig, with a crown of thorns I fashioned out of pipe cleaners. And I made a paper mache fish with the front half on my chest and back half on my back. JESUS FISH!

      • Little_Magpie

        I did Jesus as a costume several years back. Aiming for hilarity, not so much offensiveness. (I was partying among Pagans.) They make this plastic stuff for decorating your house for Halloween that’s meant to be rusty barbed wire, that worked pretty well for the crown of thorns. My own hair, as I was still wearing it long at the time, but a costume beard.

        Also, I’m a woman. I don’t know if that makes the costume inherently more offensive if worn by me.

        • TnkAgn

          Reminds me of a long-ago National Lampoon Magazine issue’s
          “Jessica Christ.”

          • wmdkitty
            • Little_Magpie

              yeah but i wasn’t trying to do a gender swap of it. I was trying to do JC pretty much straight and unironic. Less rule 63, more doing a costume that happens to be across gender lines. Which seems to be a theme for me, I also in recent years did James of Team Rocket (from the Pokemon TV show)

              • wmdkitty

                Eh, fair enough.

  • Emily Fleming

    Zeus-lovers would likely not be offended. That guy is clearly dressed as Hermes – note the running shoes. ;)

  • Dan Weeks

    Don’t think Jesus would have worn a cross, though.

    • Artor

      It should be on his back instead.

    • Brian Westley

      Well, not in that way, no.

  • LesterBallard

    Wasn’t this an episode of Good Times?

    • islandbrewer

      I remember that! Except it was just painting of an African Jesus, and still caused some controversy, as I recall.

      • LesterBallard

        Yep, a painting. JJ painted it, and they had some good luck.

      • LesterBallard

        Just watched the episode; JJ used Ned the Wino as his model.

  • LesterBallard

    Everyone knows that a first century Palestinian Jew had blue eyes and long, straight, blonde hair.

    • McAtheist

      Yes, it’s an indisputable fact ! Jesus had long blonde hair, alabaster skin and piercing blue eyes. These historical/religious revisionists must be stopped. Black Jesus indeed, how is that even possible?

    • Paula M Marshall

      Well, he wasn’t chocolate either. He was middle eastern. He would look like a terrorist to us now.

      • fenaray

        How the hell would you know what he looked like?

  • Jean

    That is sure the most terrifying character of all!

  • The Captain

    I’m actually not going to chalk this one up to “christian persecution complex”. If you look at that ridiculously broad list of things they have a policy against I’d say this is more of a case of being over zealous to not offend ANYONE. I bet had he showed up in a turban, or dressed as American Indian they would have done the same thing.

    I think this is more of a case of what happens when you have a comity attempt to make policy to try and placate hypersensitive people in general.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      That’s the problem, really. The school wasn’t persecuting anyone. However, the Christian Right has built a narrative so enduring that they can and will claim persecution happened, collect money, and no one in their collective audience will ever wonder about the details.

  • Brian P.

    By going as Jesus, you’ll encounter many others who come as Judas.

  • Stephen Miller

    The gold leaf crown is great, but the white tube socks kind of spoil the look.

  • Mitch

    I don’t always dress up as Jesus, but when I do … I also apply zombie make-up.

  • Matt Ranson

    I really don’t find his costume offensive considering that it was the students’ choice and not made mandatory by the school.

  • busterggi

    Ach! Zombies!

  • GubbaBumpkin
    • GubbaBumpkin

      It wouldn’t take much alteration to turn Jesus into a Klan costume either. Get rid of the red sash, bring the head covering down over the face and cut some eye holes. The cross would fit in just fine.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    I can’t tell what his wrist band says. Is it “What would Lance Armstrong do?”

  • JWH

    I don’t care if he was trying to be offensive with his costume. I would say let him wear it.

  • Mario Strada

    Because Jesus would go around with the symbol of his own demise around his neck.

  • TnkAgn

    The high school I taught in used to have classes on Halloween when it landed on a weekday. Then one year about 10 years ago, it all came apart. Aside from the girls dressed in “slutty nurse” and “hooker” costumes, there were two boys in costumes that the administration could not ignore. One was a male student dressed as Jesus, bearing a 5 ft. wooden cross (our principal was extremely religious, and knowing the personality of the student, was offended, as were many students). And then, when a white student (a senior) was asked by a teacher why he was in black-face with bloody hole drawn on his forehead, the student responded,
    “I’m a dead n—-r.”

    Since then, the school district schedules an inservice on days that Halloween lands on a weekday.

    • allein

      Wouldn’t it be easier to just not allow costumes?

      • badgerchild

        I thought about that for ten seconds and then assumed it was unworkable in schools without a uniform. Even then it wouldn’t stop face painting and so forth. They will find a creative way around the rule, I promise. I can even think of “costumes” that require NO physical preparation, only mimicry and playacting.

        • allein

          Yeah, I suppose you’re right. Kids will find a way..

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    I thought that was more of just a guy in a toga with laurel leaves. I mean who dresses up as “greek god”? I’d go all out and get a trident and fishing net and conch if I wanted to go as a greek god. I take my halloween very serious almost as serious as some cosplayers.

  • Paula M Marshall

    Yeah, that’s a stereotype, all right. He never would have worn those stupid clothes all day every day. That’s what I see in the pictures in the gold-edged bibles!

  • Jackie Riley

    Enough with the “Jesus wouldn’t have worn a cross” BS. He also wouldn’t have worn a wig, he wouldn’t be wearing that bracelet, he wouldn’t be walking around with a dude in socks and sneakers and I’m also sure that the costume has some synthetic materials that ol Yeshua wouldn’t have been able to use either. Also, people from that area aren’t black, but no one is really complaining about that either… and no I’m not claiming he would be white either.

  • Dan Dorfman

    “He nailed it”
    Absolutely lost it when I read that. Seriously, I was unreachable for several minutes because my laughing was consuming all my attention and energy.

  • WilliamLongfellow

    I went to this school. Highland Park is a mostly Jewish city and something of a liberal enclave in a conservative (especially fiscally) region of Chicago suburbia. White Highland Parkers pay lip service to diversity, often quite earnestly, but the Sanders are probably right about there being a racial component—Highland Park courses with racist and classist undercurrents. Not bigotry. Rather, the insidious stuff that, without you realizing, predisposes you to see a black kid as someone who’d be disrespectful or irreverent, as the teacher suspected Marshon of being.

    That, plus a sense of political correctness that went over the lid, is likely why the administrators balked at the Jesus costume.

    I wonder if I know that first period teacher…

  • Joe Blow

    Actually this isn’t Christian persecution, they asked him to take it off to spare the feelings of said Christians so it was done for them not against them. Besides, it was Virginia, they were probably more offended by the fact he doesn’t fit the stereotypical historically inaccurate depiction of a white Jesus :/

  • Y. A. Warren

    Such Bull s_ _ t! This seems to me the very reason the the ten commandments forbade images of The Sacred Spirit!