Canadian Student Suspended for Wearing Jesus T-Shirt

By Michael Gryboski , Christian Post Reporter
May 4, 2012|4:00 pm

Student William Swinimer wearing his banned shirt. “I believe this is worth standing up for — it’s not just standing up for religious rights, it’s standing up for my rights as a Canadian citizen; for freedom of speech, freedom of religion,” he says.

A teenage Canadian student was suspended for wearing a yellow t-shirt to school that reads “Life is Wasted Without Jesus.”

William Swinimer, a 19-year-old Nova Scotia resident who attends Forest Heights Community School in Chester Basin, was given multiple in-school suspensions for wearing the shirt. Finally, he was also handed a five day out of school suspension, which ends Monday.

Faye Sonier, legal counsel for the Centre for Faith and Public Life of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, told The Christian Post that the school’s disciplinary efforts were “inappropriate.”

“I think it was inappropriate for the school to suspend the student. The student was simply exercising his right to freedom of expression and religion,” said Sonier.

“Schools and school boards seem to think that public schools need to be a religion-free zone, and that’s not at all the case. In fact the Supreme Court of Canada has been clear that schools are to be an inclusive and welcoming space for all.”

In an interview with a Canadian publication, South Shore Regional School Board Superintendent Nancy Pynch-Worthylake, whose governing territory includes Forest Heights, explained that Swinimer got into trouble due to complaints by peers regarding the content of his shirt.

“I know it’s out there that somehow we don’t allow religious beliefs in school, which is absolutely false,” said Pynch-Worthylake to the National Post.

“The only time is when we have students come forward and say ‘I really feel this is a criticism of my beliefs’ and that’s what happened in this situation.”

Regarding the issue of offensive content given the nature of the shirt’s message, Sonier told CP that students and officials who are offended should “get over it.”

“We Canadians offend each other every day, intentionally and unintentionally. It’s part of living in such a vibrant society. And for the most part, we do it well,” said Sonier.

“In terms of it being hateful, it isn’t. The Criminal Code sets a high standard for what is considered hate propaganda, and I don’t know how anyone…in good conscience could say that this comes anywhere close to meeting that standard.”

The EFC has sent Pynch-Worthylake an open letter denouncing the treatment of Swinimer and offering legal arguments on the student’s benefit.

“Unless one can act in a non-harmful way in public dialogue, inspired by one’s religious beliefs, then one does not have religious freedom but only the freedom to believe,” reads the letter in part.

“We therefore urge you to publicly communicate that your school board will permit lawful and reasonable expression of religious belief and that you will refrain from penalizing any students who exercise their Charter rights to freedom of religion and expression.”

While EFC awaits a response from the School Board, Swinimer intends to continue to wear the shirt, as he has explained to local media.

“I believe this is worth standing up for – it’s not just standing up for religious rights, it’s standing up for my rights as a Canadian citizen; for freedom of speech, freedom of religion,” said Swinimer.

Forest Heights Community School of Chester Basin, Nova Scotia did not return a request for comments by press time.

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3 Responses to Canadian Student Suspended for Wearing Jesus T-Shirt

  1. toadspittle says:

    Ooh! Oooh! Oooh!

    Supsended just for wearing a “T-shirt” with soppy writing on it!
    Persecution! Misery !! The sky just fell in!!!
    Let’s all hold our heads in in our hands and rock back and forth keening and moaning!

    If Toad had this way, ALL “T-shirts” with any writing on them would subject the wearer to a short but nasty spell in the stocks.

    Even if the “T-shirt” said something harmless like, “It’s all the fault of the Jews and Masons” or “What a shame about Osama Bin Laden”or “Cannonise Mel Gibson!”

  2. Given the current atmosphere in my own country, the United States, I can easily imagine something like this happening there. But in CANADA?

    One of the reasons I’ve always admired Canadians is because I thought they were above American craziness. I’m very, VERY disappointed to discover I may have been wrong.

    At any rate, William Swinimer is to be commended for expressing his beliefs and his faith in the way he has. What would it mean to be a Christian if we didn’t suffer these small martyrdoms of ridicule and punishment?

  3. toadspittle says:

    Don’t get too far bent out of shape over Canadian craziness, Robert John.

    There’s still a significantly decent gap between snivelling about slogans on “T-shirts” and mowing down dozens of your fellow countrymen with an AK47 and four handguns simply because they have irritated you in some fashion.

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