Thursday, May 27, 2010

Student Suspended for Wearing Rosary beads

We read:
"Raymond Hosier, a 13-year-old Schenectady, New York, boy, is gearing up to file a federal suit against his middle school after he was repeatedly suspended for wearing a rosary, which he says is in memory of his older brother who died in a bike accident.

Hosier said he has worn the rosary since September, but in the last week was suspended three times, most recently on Monday, when he arrived at school with the beads outside his shirt.

"When I wear the rosary beads," Hosier says, "my brother's memory is alive." His brother, Joey Hosier, was holding the rosary when he died.

But officials at Oneida Middle School say the district's code of conduct clearly states that beads worn outside of the shirt are forbidden.

"Beads are often identifiers for gangs," says Karen Corona, who handles communications for the Schenectady City School District. "The code of conduct is entirely about keeping students safe....

Hosier is being represented by the conservative American Center for Law & Justice, which has argued several cases nationally involving freedom of speech and religion.

The lawyers are planning to file a suit in federal court claiming the school violated Hosier's constitutional rights to free speech.


There was a similar case in February, also in NY. In that case the ACLU were defending the kid. This time the kid gets conservative defenders!

I don't have much sympathy for the kid. The rosary is an aid to prayer, nothing else. Using it as a necklace seems rather poor taste to me. It is certainly not a form of religious expression in such a usage. I think the conservative lawyers in this case are simply showing their ignorance of what rosary beads are for.


Anonymous said...

Free speech is also about non verbal expression and wearing something that a close one had when they died would seem to qualify. The extremely dubious practice of banning certain articles of clothing or colors in the alleged attempt to ban “gang” affiliation is futile at best and well on the slope of government control for everything. “Gang” behavior is easy to spot and document and should be the target of the schools but that is harder work so they opt for symbols, their usual course.

Anonymous said...

"The rosary is an aid to prayer, nothing else"

Not at all surprising coming from an atheist.

Anonymous said...

Not at all surprising coming from an atheist.

Explain your moronic comment.

Anonymous said...

Come on people, the kid should not have been wearing the rosary as jewelry. The rosary is a prayer aid, NOT jewelry to be worn. I was taught this in Catholic school as a kid. Please explain if this has changed.

So the real point is that the kid was disrespectfully wearing something he should not have been wearing in the first place by the rules of his own religion.

Anonymous said...

The school is right about the "gang" association with Rosaries. It is becoming more and more common to see gang members wearing Rosaries with specific colors. Gangs are also using them as an improvised weapon, garrotes.

Anonymous said...

Read the words/watch the tv snip from the source.

He was asked to tuck the rosary into his shirt like before!

He also got called out for "same colored clothes" and the children in the class all think he is in a gang.

The parents started going down the "racist" meme, but probably thought they would get better play with the rosary angle.

I suspect there is more to the story...

Anonymous said...

Why not wear a swastika and say it's a tribute to whatever!

Menoichius said...

I think the school's reasoning is a bit dubious, but if it is actually in their code of conduct, I don't see where the kid has a case. His brother's memory could be just as alive if he wore them inside his shirt.

Anonymous said...

"Explain your moronic comment."

Not moronic at all. Unlike Muslim prayer beads the rosary is worn by many Catholics as adornment and a show of their faith, not just taken out of a closet for prayer sessions.
An atheist wouldn't know or recognise that (or choose not to do so).

Anonymous said...

Check. Moronic comment verified.

Anonymous said...

if the kid was wearing mooooslim prayer beads it would have been no problem,,the bastard school and atheist would have no problem with it. my brother is a monk, they wear their rosaries around their waists.Kid should have said he was an illegal alien, they can do what they want.

Anonymous said...

I gotta say - I disagree again with your take on the rosary JJR (and a few other people here).
What you are really saying is,
"he doesn't wear it the way I think (or even the Catholic Church thinks) he should so it cannot be an expression of faith."
This not only limits the argument to the first principle of the first amendment, it substantially limits people to expressions that some arbiter agrees with. And we all know how dangerous that can be.
This kid is free to express himself and his faith in whichever way he chooses - the school is only free to curtail that expression to the extent they can justify it to protect the fundamental educational (and I guess social) requirements of the institution. IT IS THE SCHOOL WHO HAS TO JUSTIFY IT ON SOME RELEVANT GROUNDS!

Ron said...

I've read statements like, he can just "tuck" them in and all is fine, but that is "censure." The point is, he shouldn't have to hide them away. The question here is if the school has the legal right to ask him to tuck them away, or if he can wear them openly. Given the Tinker v Des Moines Supreme court decision in support of students and their rights to express "silent speech", it's not likely the school can or will win this one. We should also consider that the student has been wearing the rosary "openly" since the beginning of the school year. Does it not raise any eyebrows that the school just now decided to enforce the rules that they have made?

Although I see it as a common view, the position that "rules are rules" is not a valid argument. Rules are not permitted to violate the constitutional rights of an individual, no matter how the school may choose to see things. You can claim that the student was being disobedient, but when policies and rules are unfair (and potentially illegal), and they work against us, shouldn't we practice civil disobedience? In addition, I've read the demand letter from the ACLJ. It was respectful and cited the court cases. The school has chosen to not take action, so the courts have to.

I read up on the Chalifoux v. New Caney case - I bothered to take the time and read the entire thing (too much time on my hands perhaps) and this gives strong precedence in favor of the student. (And the findings also address how the rosary is worn, so it doesn't matter if the student is wearing them improperly or not, based on the findings of the court, it was irrelevant.) Frankly, I think it's appropriate to challenge and stand up for our rights. It doesn't matter if people feel the child is being "defiant" or "insubordinate", he has the legal right to excercise his first amendment rights at the school no matter what anyone else may feel, and the Tinker decision clearly addresses it.

Schools should teach us our rights and responsibilities as part of our education system, not tread upon them. Besides, it puts the schools in a position to re-think how they write a dress code, and it holds them to a level of accountability they seem to think they can ignore for the moment. Remember, this is not a private school, it recieves federal subsiides, so they must play by the rules.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:08, but where (if anywhere) do you draw the line? If the kid's religion used the swastika as a symbol (which some religions in India do and thus have absolutely nothing to do with Hitler) should he be permitted to display it? Does an Atheist have the right to display religious symbols with "ghostbuster" symbols over them?

it has to be all or nothing. The Constitution provides for "all" and the school is providing for "nothing". Which should win out?

Anonymous said...

Anon. 5:31 - in answer to your questions:
1. at the point at which it becomes unreasonably detrimental to the educational requirements of the school,
2. yes,
3. yes, and
4. obviously the constitution will win out but the Courts have made it clear that reasonable limits can be imposed so long as they are justifiable. They cannot be arbitrary or capricious.
Why would anyone be offended by the public display of a simple private symbol?