An evangelical Florida church has been linked to a series of kids being sent home from school for wearing shirts that violate the dress code. On the back, the shirts read “Islam is Of the Devil.”
On the front, the shirts quote the Book of John and make reference to the Dove World Outreach Center, a church that has made part of its mission “To expose Islam for what it is. It is a violent and oppressive religion that is trying to mascarade itself as a religion of peace, seeking to deceive our society.”
They’re handing out signs with the same message to parishioners, adults who put them out in their yards. But it’s kids as young as ten who have been wearing the shirts and being promptly sent home by school officials. In response, the Gainesville Sun reports, parents are sending MORE kids to school with the same shirt.
That’s because the pastor says the message of the shirts is “more important than education.” Well – at least for some people – other members of the congregation say they haven’t decided whether they’ll let their kids wear the shirts because they realize the time spent being spent home is getting in the way of their kids’ education.
Generally, I’m in favor of free speech . . . even when it comes to something I vehemently disagree with. But as one of my colleagues said today, this is like screaming fire in a crowded theater. Rather than reflecting their own freedom of religion (the front of the shirts, the Bible quote, has actually been OK’d by school officials), the shirts are designed specifically to hurt other people’s feelings and infringe on their rights of freedom from religious persecution.
Purposely hurting someone’s feelings is still relatively protected out on the streets of America. But this is where the freedom of speech inside a school building meets the freedom to not be harrassed within a school building. Schools are, after all, save havens for most kids.
Allowing a kid to wear a pro-life tee might make some kids a little uncomfortable. Allowing kids to wear an “Islam is of the Devil” shirt is like spitting in their cornflakes. That needless antagonism doesn’t belong inside a school building (or, really anywhere else – but again, that’s freedom of speech).
If the Dove church wants to teach their kids something Biblical, how about starting with a little Jesus: turn the other cheek.
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