The school district in Fremont, Nebraska has ignited controversy after officials banned students from wearing a necklace that looks like a rosary. The ban was implemented after police told school officials that the necklace is also being worn by gang members.
Elizabeth Carey, as 12-year-old who attends the sixth-grade in the district, says that her principal told her she can no longer wear a necklace that resembles rosary, a determination that has left her parents frustrated and upset. They believe their daughter should be able to openly showcase her religious beliefs.
Fremont Superintendent Steve Sexton told KETV-TV the policy is to protect students. He says police told school leaders the necklace is being used as a symbol of gang affiliation -- a growing trend that has emerged in other localities across the nation as well.
"We had information from law enforcement that there were documented instances of gang activity in the area and we had information that states that the rosary was being used as a symbol of gang affiliation," he said.
But Omaha Catholic Archdiocese Chancellor Rev. Joseph Taphorn says Christians shouldn't have to give up a symbol of their faith because others misuse it.
"I don't think Christians should have to forfeit what is the symbol for the love of Christ because a few people want to misuse that symbol," he explains. "One ought to be able to figure out whether she's trying to promote a gang. If she's not, why would she be punished for her right of religious freedom and religious expression?"
The American Civil Liberties Union opposes the policy and sides with Carey's family on the matter, saying it violates the rights of free speech and religion. Still, the district maintains that rosaries are not allowed, although other religious jewelry would be permitted.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.