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Rosary Banned As Gang Related Accessory: Lawsuit Pending

At Oneida Middle School in Schenectady, New York, a student’s rosary was labeled as gang related beads. The item was banned from the student’s use. After complaints, the school dropped the ban, but a civil rights lawsuit filed against school officials rages on. The lawsuit continues because the school officials are accused of retaliating against the student for complaining about the ban.

rosary-beads.jpgThe lawsuit was brought on by the American Center for Law and Justice. The student involved in Raymond Hoisier. The policy change, the American Center for Law and Justice says, is a victory for religious freedom. The policy, the organization stated, was discriminatory against the student’s constitutional right of free speech and the free exercise of religion.

The student wore the rosary to school to express his faith and to honor the memories of an uncle and brother who died with the rosary in hand. The lawsuit states that the student is not part of any criminal gang and does not use the rosary as a way of promoting any gang related activities or belongings. The student’s lawsuit states that the student did not cause any disruption to the school environment by wearing the rosary.

The lawsuit remains in effect because, allegedly, the school dean came up to the student when the student returned to school and ordered the student to detention. According to the lawsuit, the dean said, “If you want to play the insubordinate game, we can play, too.” The school is also charged with writing the child up numerous times following the period after the student filed the complaint than it had in the year prior. The lawsuit claims that the school is trying to portray the student as a troublemaker.

The judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Kahn stated that the student was allowed to continue wearing the rosary until the issue was resolved.

The organization also claims that the policy has come into question in other instances as well, including one incident in which the school required a 12 year old girl to remove the red, white and blue beaded necklace she wore as a way to support her family members serving in Iraq. The school, at that time, banished the necklace. That case was settled out of court.