A pastor in Nova Scotia, Canada, is claiming that a teenager who was suspended after wearing a shirt that reads, "Life is wasted without Jesus," is being bullied by his high school. The 12th grade student, William Swinimer, was suspended from Forest Height Community School last week for wearing the shirt after being told by staffers not to.
The suspension took effect last Monday and according to pastor Varrick Day of Jesus the Good Shepherd Church in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, the student has been targeted by the school over his faith for the past year. Now, SUN News is reporting that a facilitator is being called in to help alleviate tensions between students, school officials and staff members.
"I believe there's a personal vendetta," Day said in an interview with the QMI Agency. "I feel William is being bullied."
The pastor also noted that the message on the teen's shirt comes directly from the Bible and he said that school officials are free to argue with God, should they so choose.
Swinimer, too, has defended his actions.
"I believe there are things that are bigger than me," he told CBC. "And I think that I need to stand up for the rights of people in this country, and religious rights and freedom of speech."
Jamie Baillie, the leader of the Progressive Conservative Caucus, has also weighed in on the issue, saying that the school's actions against Swinimer were "heavy-handed" and that the student has "certain fundamental freedoms." In his statement Baillie said, "The actions of the appointed school board are far more inappropriate than a slogan on a t-shirt."
While superintendent Nancy Pynch-Worthylake claims that the school supports students' rights, she has proclaimed that the teenager was suspended over the fact that he was being non-compliant with the principal.
"We are supportive of students right to have religious beliefs in school," the South Shore Regional School Board superintendent said. "The only time we would ever try to change message is when others student interpret the message as a criticism of their beliefs."
This, of course, is exactly what the shirt is accused of doing -- condemning the non-Christian beliefs of others.
"If I have an expression that says 'My life is enhanced with Jesus,' then there's no issue with that, everybody is able to quickly understand that that's my opinion about my own belief," Pynch-Worthylake said. "If the shirt were to say 'Without Jesus, your life is a complete waste,' then that's clear that it is an opinion aimed at somebody else's belief."
Swinimer plans to wear the t-shirt to school again on Monday, even if it means that he will be suspended again.
(H/T: SUN News)