School Backs Down From Student Wearing Jesus T-Shirt
A student who has been frequently disciplined by a Canadian school for wearing a Christian t-shirt is now allowed to attend classes wearing the shirt.
School officials from Forest Heights Community School in Chester Basin, Nova Scotia backed down from disciplining William Swinimer, who had been given multiple in-school suspensions for wearing a yellow shirt that read "Life Is Wasted Without Jesus."
Earlier this year, Swinimer found himself coming under fire from school officials over his Christian t-shirt, as they considered the shirt to be offensive and hateful toward those who disagree with Swinimer's religious views. After a series of in-school suspensions, the school finally decided to suspend Swinimer and kept him home for all of last week.
South Shore Regional School Board Superintendent Nancy Pynch-Worthylake, whose governing territory includes Forest Heights, told the National Post about her position on the matter.
"I know it's out there that somehow we don't allow religious beliefs in school, which is absolutely false," said Pynch-Worthylake to the Canadian news publication. "The only time is when we have students come forward and say 'I really feel this is a criticism of my beliefs' and that's what happened in this situation."
The incident garnered considerable attention, especially from groups concerned about religious liberty for students. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, a national organization of Canadian evangelical Christians founded in 1964, sent an open letter to Superintendent Pynch-Worthylake.
"Unless one can act in a non-harmful way in public dialogue, inspired by one's religious beliefs, then one does not have religious freedom but only the freedom to believe," reads the letter in part.
"We therefore urge you to publicly communicate that your school board will permit lawful and reasonable expression of religious belief and that you will refrain from penalizing any students who exercise their Charter rights to freedom of religion and expression."
Despite successfully attending some of his classes on Monday, Swinimer's father would take his son out of class over the apparent focus of class time on discussions of religious freedom rather than course curriculum.
"He will not attend this school unless they are having reading, writing and arithmetic – good old-fashioned academics," said John Swinimer in an interview with CBC television.
"When they're having forums, when they're having other extra-curricular activity, he will not attend that school."
Forest Heights Community School of Chester Basin, Nova Scotia did not return a request for comments by press time.