Rosary Beads Confiscated At School: Is This An Attack On Religion?

The “war on religion,” as many see it, is a perceived shift toward a secular America, and many Americans are outraged right now at a story out of Colorado that involves the confiscation of not one but two sets of rosary beads from a high school student who is Catholic and had gotten into the habit of wearing the totems around his neck.

Which precipitates a question any former Catholic school student would ask upon reading this story: Didn’t anyone ever teach this kid that it’s considered disrespectful to wear rosary beads around your neck? At least when I was at Our Lady Of Perpetual Help, it was certainly offense enough to earn a decently powered wallop with A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints if anyone caught you treating rosary beads like a fashion accessory, so much so that, 25 years later, I’m still scared for this kid lest he run into a lone nun at the mall or Chili’s.

Alas, the propriety of wearing rosary beads or their display as a religious symbol appears not to be the issue when it comes to the confiscation of teen Manuel Vigil’s rosary beads at Thompson Valley High School in Loveland, Colorado. Rather, it seems, the teen’s habit of wearing the prayer beads was one that has, in the past, been associated with gang affiliation and thusly banned in the school setting.

Vigil’s mom says that the teen took to wearing the rosary after the murder of an uncle over the summer; she explains:

“Having the rosary taken away was kind of like a huge hit for him … He wears it as a form of protection for himself.”

rosary beads confiscated

Interestingly, though, it seems like the school felt not that the rosary itself was the issue, more the style or how it was displayed. One might surmise that the larger issue here is that Vigil sounds like he may be being profiled for gang activity based his overall appearance rather than his overt Catholicism. A school rep said:

“It wasn’t consistent with what would normally be a rosary, and because of that we felt like it could be gang-related … There was no punishment; we just removed it.”

Earlier, we posted about a new film out over the weekend called Last Ounce Of Courage, one that handles the alleged issue of persecuted Christians in America.

But what is interesting about this case is that those of us who were Biblically educated as children certainly remember the parts about “seek and ye shall find.” If you look at the confiscation of Vigil’s rosary beads, isn’t it far more of an issue that the school assumes this kid is in the Latin Kings rather than proof of the existence of some sort of now-nonexistent Catholic bias?

If there is any kind of oppression going on with the rosary beads, isn’t it the assumption the teen is in a gang versus some sort of distaste for Catholicism? Do you think the rosary bead ban in school indicative of loss of rights for Christians?