Responding to a ban on the wearing of rosaries at a Colorado public school, the Diocese of Colorado Springs has said it does not oppose the action because it recognizes the need to protect children. Local gangs have reportedly decided to wear rosaries as jewelry as a sign of gang affiliation.
Mann Middle School in Colorado Springs sent a Sept. 30 memo to students, saying “we need to remind everyone that here at Mann, we respect all religious beliefs. Some members of the Catholic faith are offended by rosaries being worn around the neck like fashion accessories.”
The memo said that any rosaries worn around the neck must be worn underneath one’s shirt “out of respect for others.” Students who do not follow the instructions would be issued a dress-code violation.
Msgr. Bob Jaeger, vicar general of the Diocese of Colorado Springs, said in an Oct. 12 statement that the diocese “supports every student’s first amendment right to openly wear religious jewelry.”
“In these increasingly secular times, when hostility towards individuals of faith continues to grow, it is imperative to remain vigilant against all forms of selective religious discrimination,” he continued.
However, he wrote, the diocese recognizes “the need to protect children and the right of school districts to regulate clothing and other items that have been misappropriated as symbols of gang affiliation.”
Because of this misappropriation, the diocese does not oppose the school district’s decision.
"Rosaries and similar devotionals are articles of faith intended to foster and promote prayer. Rosaries are not intended to be worn as jewelry. Students who have a devotion to the rosary should be encouraged to pray the rosary rather than wear it around their necks."
Msgr. Ricardo Coronado-Arrascue, the diocese’s judicial vicar and chancellor, told the Colorado Catholic Herald that rosaries may occasionally be worn on one’s clothes, as when some vowed religious wear a rosary attached to their belts. But he lamented that gangs have adopted the rosary in this manner.
"To belong in a gang is against Catholic teaching because it involves violent confrontation," Msgr. Coronado-Arrascue commented. "To use a Christian symbol to express that is contrary to the symbol and contrary to the faith. Rosaries are many times prayed to obtain peace. How can you wear a symbol of peace and have it represent violence and fighting?"
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado has opposed the school’s decision, citing religious liberty concerns.