ACLJ Takes Up Case of 7th Grader Suspended for Wearing Rosary

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) is representing a 13-year-old student from New York who received a two-day suspension for wearing a rosary to school.

The Christian legal group announced its role in the case of Raymond Hosier on Friday – two days after the teen was suspended from Oneida Middle School in Schenectady, N.Y., for refusing to take the beads off or tuck them in his shirt.

"The action taken by the school district - suspending the student for wearing a religious artifact - is insulting and inappropriate," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ, in Friday's announcement.

"The Supreme Court has been very clear that students do not surrender their constitutional rights to religious expression when they go to school," Sekulow added. "We're representing the family in this case and will pursue all legal avenues to ensure that the rights of Raymond Hosier are protected."

While Hosier, who turned 13, said wearing the rosary brings him comfort and honors the memory of his deceased older brother and uncle, a school administrator at Oneida said the rosary was in violation of the district's blanket policy on beads, which has been in place for a few years now due to the connection that some beads have to gangs.

"Beads are one method that gangs use to identify each other," Superintendent Eric Ely explained to a local NBC news affiliate.

"We certainly understand any youngster's desire to commemorate something, but we also understand our need to maintain a safe environment," he added.

ACLJ's Sekulow, in response, called the school district's comparison of a rosary to a gang symbol "not only wrong, but deeply offensive."

"One thing is very clear - this school district will get a lesson in the First Amendment," he added.

Based in Washington, the ACLJ focuses on constitutional law and "is specifically dedicated to the ideal that religious freedom and freedom of speech are inalienable, God-given rights. "

The legal group's stated purpose is to educate, promulgate, conciliate, and where necessary, litigate, to ensure that those rights are protected under the law.