By William R. Toler
Manuel Vigil has had Rosary beads confiscated not once, but twice in the past three weeks by Thompson Valley High School officials, according to KDVR-13.
As with the case in Nebraska last year, the school district considers the Rosary a gang symbol and therefore cowers behind the sheild of protecting students. The fear of gangs has led to many schools to adopt strict uniform policies.
“That’s typically not what we want for a safe environment for school,” district spokesperson Margaret Crespo told the Colorado television station.
But Vigil says he wears his Rosary for protection. “I use them for prayer,” he said. “I feel safe when I have them on.” He says he and his family are strong Catholics.
School officials say they “warned” Vigil about his Rosary and only took action after he failed to comply. “We’ve given you two opportunities to take it off or to put it inside your shirt,” Crespo said officials told Vigil. “That’s not something you’re interested in doing. You’re not giving us an alternative than to remove it.”
Vigil says he was never warned–only commanded–and said he would’ve tucked the Rosary in his shirt had he been asked.
According to the station’s report, Vigil has not yet had his property returned because officials will only release the Rosaries to a parent. Vigil’s mother works during school hours and hasn’t been able to retireve them.
These recent cases (and I’m sure there are more) are antithetical to the liberty that we profess to hold so dear. School officials, and government agents in general, often use the word “safety” to hide behind unjust actions.
It seems worse for students, however. I’ve pointed out in the past that it seems the prevailing thought is that students (K-12) don’t have rights because they’re not old enough to vote. Let us not forget the words of the Declaration of Independence “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”
Let us also not forget the infamous quote from the majority opinon in Tinker v. Des Moines: “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
These rights are not granted, nor can they be taken away, by the state. The Constitution and Bill of Rights–for those that still adhere to it’s authority and haven’t followed the lead of Lysander Spooner–are meant to hold back the government from depriving us of those rights. Religous liberty is one of those guaranteed by the First Amendment.
The First Amendment, as well as the Fourth, is one constantly violated by schools across the country. Even religious liberty has been challenged at the Supreme Court level. In 1943, Justice Robert Jackson wrote: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”
It’s cases like this that make homeschooling that much more appealing.
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