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ACLU stands up for right of Colorado Springs middle schooler to wear rosary at public school

Critics of the ACLU portray the organization as an apologist for flag burners. As such, the group loves to show it's about principles, not ideology. Case in point: Its defense of Cainan Gostnell, a Colorado Springs student whose middle school has banned wearing religious symbols like rosaries outside clothing.

Gostnell's parents have complained publicly about the policy, but no legal action has been taken to date -- and as noted in the ACLU release below, which links to a pair of Colorado Springs Gazette pieces on the subject, the Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs has no objection to the prohibition.

The same can't be said for the ACLU. Here's the outfit's take:

ACLU Supports Students' Right of Religious Freedom

Opposes school decision to ban students from wearing certain Christian religious symbols.

COLORADO SPRINGS -- The Colorado Springs Gazette has reported that a local middle school has announced a policy forbidding students from wearing certain Christian symbols to school, unless they are worn underneath clothing.

The ACLU strongly opposes the decision of Colorado Springs School District 11 on the basis of religious liberty.

Mark Silverstein, Legal Director of the ACLU said, "The First Amendment protects the right of students to express their faith by wearing crosses, rosaries, or other religious symbols without interference from school officials. Our Constitution protects the right to individual religious liberty and the ACLU is here to support everyone who chooses to exercise that right."

"For over 90 years the ACLU has always defended the religious liberty of all Americans. It is one of the most fundamental of our nation's freedoms," said ACLU Executive Director Ray Drew.

According to the Gazette, Monsignor Bob Jaeger of the Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs has stated that the church is OK with the school's position and Colorado Springs School District 11 spokesperson Elaine Naleski states that this policy is necessary to prevent the use of crosses and rosaries as gang symbols.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts