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Old 05-11-2003, 11:29 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Teacher's aide suspended for wearing a cross

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Cross-wearing woman
sues over suspension

Teacher's aide punished after refusing to remove religious symbol


A teacher's aide who was suspended for refusing to remove a cross pendant she regularly wore to work has sued the education agency that employs her for allegedly violating her constitutional rights.

As WorldNetDaily reported, officials at ARIN Intermediate Unit 28 in Pennsylvania suspended Brenda Nichol, 43, for one year for refusing to stop wearing the cross, which violates a Pennsylvania Public School Code prohibition against teachers wearing religious garb. The woman is an eight-year employee of the agency.

"I got suspended April 8, 2003, for wearing a cross to work and not being willing to either remove it or tuck it in," she told the Indiana Gazette last month.

The American Center for Law and Justice, a public-interest law firm specializing in religious-freedom issues, filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of Nichol in U.S. district court in Pittsburgh this week.

"The actions taken by this agency represent a serious violation of our client's constitutional rights," said Vincent McCarthy, senior counsel of ACLJ. "The law is very clear on this issue – school personnel do not shed their constitutional freedoms when they enter the school house door. To punish a teacher's aide for merely expressing her free speech rights is not only wrong, but unconstitutional. We're confident that the court will correct this injustice and protect the First Amendment rights of our client."

Crosses and Stars of David are examples of prohibited jewelry under the state's law on public schools, according to Dr. Robert H. Coad Jr., executive director of ARIN.

According to the ARIN handbook, employees may wear a cross or other religious jewelry as long as it cannot be seen by others.

Of the regulation, Nichol said, "I could not follow that code in my heart. I could not deny Christ."

According to a statement from ACLJ, the suit names as defendants ARIN Intermediate Unit 28, its executive director and several other supervisors. It contends the actions of the agency violate the First and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and Pennsylvania law, including the state's Religious Freedom Protection Act. The law firm says Nichol also will file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and will pursue charges that the suspension violated federal law.

"There is nothing wrong with Brenda Nichol wearing a cross pendant to work," said McCarthy. "This is a legitimate desire to exercise her deeply held religious beliefs in a manner that is consistent with both state and federal law."


She knows what the rule was and didn't obey.
I don't have a problem with her suspension.
In her handbook it said that she could not wear that stuff, and if she did all she had to do was cover it.
Doesn't seem unfair to me.
I have rules at work that I hate and I follow them because they are the rules, and I'm not a complete moron who thinks that I'm above a dumb rule that I don't agree with.
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Old 05-11-2003, 11:32 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I would have taken the cross off.
Of course, I wouldn't have been wearing a cross in the first place.
But that's not the point.
At work, I figure I'm not there to do "advertising" for my beliefs.
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Old 05-11-2003, 11:36 AM   #3 (permalink)
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She could've simply covered it up... like Sixate said..she knew the rule and chose to ignore it.
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Old 05-11-2003, 11:48 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I've got to side with the teacher on this one.

While it may be a regulation in the schools, it is clearly unconstitutional and a denial of her rights. I'm confident it will be seen as such in the courts as well.
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Old 05-11-2003, 12:04 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Regardless of what they say in the handbook, constitutional rights will override that. The cross resembles a multitude of "religions," not just Christianity. The school has no right to determine this kind of thing. I, too, side with the teachers' aide.

EDIT: She's been there eight years. For seven of those, there was no problem. In the last year only, has she gotten "complaints," or whatever you want to call it. This suspension has no grounds whatsoever.
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Old 05-11-2003, 12:24 PM   #6 (permalink)
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There was a similar case to this one. It was a police officer who practiced Islam and wanted to wear a religious/prayer shawl thing on her head while on duty. I think she got permission to wear it.
In situations like these, you have to decide which is more important: separation of church and state or freedom of speech?
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Old 05-11-2003, 12:27 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Dress codes are NOT violations of the 1st amendment. She got what she deserved.
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Old 05-11-2003, 12:35 PM   #8 (permalink)
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She was stupid for not taking it off or covering it up and i doubt she will get any money from the people she is trying to sue.
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Old 05-11-2003, 01:00 PM   #9 (permalink)
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She won't receive a dime. First amendment, constitutional rights, whatever you want to summon to the arguement, she'll lose.

When you are at work, you are there because your employer wants you there. You have very little rights at work, and can and should be monitored, taped, etc.
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Old 05-11-2003, 01:09 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I am an agnostic non-christian and usually in the side of being politically correct, but I can't really see why she can't have a cross pendant. Thenagain I don't see why student's can't have facial piearcings in some schools. Some snobbish better folk's schools in Japan even prohibit dyed hair.

But arguing that putting the cross under her shirt is "denying Christ" is a bit extreme. I would imagine a person who can't put away a cross couldn't always be an objective teacher when it comes to telling kids about cultures and religions of the world and then there's (safe) sex...
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Old 05-11-2003, 01:28 PM   #11 (permalink)
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i'd love to see what they would have done if she was wearing a swastika.
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Old 05-11-2003, 01:38 PM   #12 (permalink)
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i'd love to see what they would have done if she was wearing a swastika.
Where the hell did that comment come from?
How is a cross in any way comparable to a swastika?
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Old 05-11-2003, 01:45 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Where the hell did that comment come from?
How is a cross in any way comparable to a swastika?
that's exactly what I was thinking
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Old 05-11-2003, 01:48 PM   #14 (permalink)
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The funny thing is that she has instituted in herself to take the (moral) high road,that being her religion, but also is using that as an excuse to profit.If some other another religious group tried to pull this shit,she'd be right at their throats crying foul.
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Old 05-11-2003, 02:00 PM   #15 (permalink)
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well a cross is just an emblem... what if she wanted to wear a swastika pendant.. . its just another symbol... like the cross... i think the suspension is warranted... she knew the rules and chose not to follow them...

as to what suviko said about no peircings and dyed hair... ariekittens highschool didnt allow peircings except ears on the girls and didnt allow any unnatural hair dye colors...
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Old 05-11-2003, 02:22 PM   #16 (permalink)
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i personaly think that that is sad that stuff like this happens, as long as the person is not forceing some one to belive in it im down with it
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Old 05-11-2003, 03:55 PM   #17 (permalink)
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This is a public school teacher, right? Fighting for her First Amendent rights? Doesn't the First Amendment also enshrine the separation of church and state?

"Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

If I am reading this right, the United States Government cannot create its own religion or force it down people's throats. I think that as an employee of the state, her personal freedoms must take a back seat to the government's or its institutions' (like public schools) duty to uphold everyone's freedom. The rules did not forbid her wearing a cross, or any other religious article which would violate her personal freedoms. It only mandates that she not broadcast her religious beliefs when working which could infrige upon someone else's right to religious freedom.

No harm, no foul. I think she will loose.
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Old 05-11-2003, 04:26 PM   #18 (permalink)
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does anyone besides DEI37 catch that for sever years nothing was said?

and nothing should have been said either.
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Old 05-11-2003, 04:35 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Originally posted by elaphe
The rules did not forbid her wearing a cross, or any other religious article which would violate her personal freedoms. It only mandates that she not broadcast her religious beliefs when working which could infrige upon someone else's right to religious freedom.

No harm, no foul. I think she will loose.
"According to the ARIN handbook, employees may wear a cross or other religious jewelry as long as it cannot be seen by others."
you're right she will lose.
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Old 05-11-2003, 04:38 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by redrum
does anyone besides DEI37 catch that for sever years nothing was said?

and nothing should have been said either.
I saw that, but it's still a rule that she has been breaking for seven years. There are also a few rules where I work that my employer doesn't enforce, but if they did I'd have to follow them. That's just the way things are wether we like it or not.
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Old 05-11-2003, 05:08 PM   #21 (permalink)
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i agree completely with six, but i dont even think its that dumb of a rule...all it was trying to accomplish was to keep any religion in school problems from arising....the school was covering thier ass.
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Old 05-11-2003, 05:54 PM   #22 (permalink)
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Why must people advertise their religions?
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Old 05-11-2003, 06:55 PM   #23 (permalink)
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I too think in this case the teachers aide is going to lose. In the handbook it was told they could wear it but it could not be seen. She chose to not put it away. As for her doing this for seven years and no one saying anything.....No one made her break the rule in the first place. Just because it wasn't enforced doesn't make it disappear. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.
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Old 05-11-2003, 11:10 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Sorry, I'm siding with the teacher on this one.

She doesn't lose her constitutional rights just because she works for the school district.

I am somewhat concerned that so many folks who bemoaned the dumbing down of our school children in another thread, where they are not being exposed to mountains and any other imagined threat, seem to find it offensive that children be exposed to the fact that a teacher might be Christain.
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Old 05-11-2003, 11:30 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Here's the thing about "losing constitutional rights." These rights can be given up for any number of reasons. If I choose to work for someone who has clear rules, I choose to abide by those rules. Walking up to her and telling her to take off her cross because she's offending you is a violation of her contitutional rights. When she willingly enters into an agreement with an organization-in this case the school district, she is agreeing to abide by their rules and regulations, rules and regulations which may require her to conform to specific codes of conduct. Having entered into such an agreement, she forfits that constitutional right.

Look at it from this perspective: Say it wasn't a cross. Say it was a transparent miniskirt. She's just using her first amendment right to freedom of expression by wearing it. But she's in violation of the state's, school's, etc. dress code by doing so and is suspended for not covering it up or changing. Would you still side with her? The principle is the same, only the degree of controversy is different. One is clearly not appropriate for a teacher and one you can rationalize or sympathize with, but the policy applies to them equally.

Sorry, teach, I think you got exactly what you deserved on this one.
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Old 05-11-2003, 11:49 PM   #26 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by elaphe
This is a public school teacher, right? Fighting for her First Amendent rights? Doesn't the First Amendment also enshrine the separation of church and state?

"Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

If I am reading this right, the United States Government cannot create its own religion or force it down people's throats. I think that as an employee of the state, her personal freedoms must take a back seat to the government's or its institutions' (like public schools) duty to uphold everyone's freedom. The rules did not forbid her wearing a cross, or any other religious article which would violate her personal freedoms. It only mandates that she not broadcast her religious beliefs when working which could infrige upon someone else's right to religious freedom.

No harm, no foul. I think she will loose.
While the Constitution prohibits the establishment of a State religon, it also protects an individual's exercise of their religion. She was not ramming Christianity down anybody's throat by wearing a cross.

I'm totally against school prayer but this was an individual doing nothing more that wearing a piece of jewlery. It's like the school saying it's against policy to wear red because it espouces Communism.
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Old 05-12-2003, 12:32 AM   #27 (permalink)
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Old 05-12-2003, 03:12 AM   #28 (permalink)
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As a non-american it really puzzles me why you lot seem to be so rabid about any religion at all in schools and what not, I suppose its not such a huge deal here, my point of view is as long as she doesnt force her views upon the students she should be able to wear a religious symbol, is it really going to traumatise the students?



I'll suppose I'll put it in the same basket as why does american media show violent acts on the news, but seems to be so strict on nudity on tv?

I guess its just one of those cultural differences, you all need to take the aussie attitude and not give a damn
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Old 05-12-2003, 04:22 AM   #29 (permalink)
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As a non-american it really puzzles me why you lot seem to be so rabid about any religion at all in schools and what not, I suppose its not such a huge deal here, my point of view is as long as she doesnt force her views upon the students she should be able to wear a religious symbol, is it really going to traumatise the students?



I'll suppose I'll put it in the same basket as why does american media show violent acts on the news, but seems to be so strict on nudity on tv?

I guess its just one of those cultural differences, you all need to take the aussie attitude and not give a damn



My thoughts exactly. I've always been bemused by these inconsistencies with my American freinds.
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Old 05-12-2003, 09:54 AM   #30 (permalink)
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She got what she deserved.

I've worn a cross every day since I was 16, though it's not because I'm religious (I'm agnostic), my grandmother left it to me in her will. It will remain under my shirt until the day I die. If it pops out, I put it back, end of story. Then again, I don't wear it because of my beliefs. Whether that all matters or not is up to you . . .

I went to a public high school that was largely christian - ex: flagpole bible gatherings in the mornings, prayers on the field of each sporting event that we held, etc. Had any of my teachers worn crosses, I doubt anyone would've noticed. It bothered me, sure, but there are some things you just have to get over. Though had she been an elementary or middle school teacher, she should've been fired, to hell with the suspension.

One other thing, this is just a suspension, yes? Wonder if she'll have it on when she comes back . . .

That's all I got for now
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Old 05-12-2003, 10:54 AM   #31 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by spectre
Where the hell did that comment come from?
How is a cross in any way comparable to a swastika?
because if it's her belief then it has to cover everyone.. it can't just be a majority of the people.

I don't agree with the swastika, but had it been one then it has to be treated with the same 1st amendment arguements.
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Old 05-12-2003, 01:25 PM   #32 (permalink)
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gee, America is a paradox.

On one hand your politicians all get up and sing "God Bless America", you have "In God we trust" on your currency, and happily refer to the war on terror as a "crusade".

Yet on the other hand, you restrict the freedom of some individuals (a teacher) to apparently enlarge the freedom of others (her students). In this case, a woman can not wear a cross shaped piece of jewellery.

What has more effect on the children? Her jewellery or your George W style "kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out" christian culture?

Perhaps the children are losing out because they are not been exposed to diversity of opinion. Instead of the personal-human connection they are immersed in Orwellian bureaucratic blandness.

As for the swastika comment above, I think the poster meant that there is no intelligent discrimination between symbols. That is to say, to a politically correct mind police bureaucrat the star of david, a pentgram, a cross, and swastika all have the same value.

Remember, to the politically correct there is only one true value: there are no values. Nazism, Christianity, Commuinism, Slavery, Animism, Astrology, Voodoo are all equally valid and equally right systems.
If you believe that, you're believe that a piece of jewellery and a women who was likely a good example to her pupils are both threats to civilisation.

Good call regarding name brand clothing. Wearers should be accosted for supporting sweat shop labour and the insidious value system that represents.
Same goes for SUVs and what they represent.
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Old 05-12-2003, 05:31 PM   #33 (permalink)
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I agree with the above post. There is a whole lot of inconsistancy in the US. There is a seperation of church and state but only to limit that those in cnogress want it. This Nation was founded because a bunch of people were persecuted for their beliefs in England. Thay came over here and started their own little place where they could be free. The First Constutional Congress saw that if they didn't do something eventually the same reason people came here would drive others away. Thus the seperation of Church and State. However it is on all our money, in the Preamble, and in all of our songs.

I believe that there is something bigger out there.....but that all relgions are basically the same. They want you to be basically a good and decent person, they want you to follow their beliefs, and they want your money. Even if it has "in God we trust" printed all over it.

But we need to let people make up their own minds about religion. I still think this teacher just needed to abide by the rules and she would have been fine. I know that there is sometime a need for rebellion, but you need to pick your fights. This is the wrong time for this fight.

Quoting :"What is the big damn deal over wearing a cross? It's not an advertisement. It's a inanimate object, just as a simple pair of earrings is and namebrand clothes." It is an inanimate object but like stated above so is the swastika, the pentagram, the star of david, the ankh, etc. These objects mean something when you see them.
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