Not that stupid Jesus T-shirt again

Public School is not the Public Square, and William Swiminer should retire his t-shirt once and for all


Mike Dembeck/CP Images

My grandmother is a God-fearing woman. She votes Conservative because she believes if she doesn’t, Israel might founder. If she were an American, she’d probably have voted for Ronald Reagan. She wouldn’t, however, have voted for Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich or Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney—all loudly resolute in their support of the Jewish state. Why? Because, in her words, “there isn’t a statesman in the bunch.” She’s taken to watching a lot of CNN lately in her retirement home, and during the GOP primary debates this past winter and spring she was wont to regularly shake her head at the screen—usually after Newt referred to Barack Obama as the “food stamp president” or Romney made a $10,000 bet at the podium—and pronounce again: “Not a statesman in the bunch.”

As close as some of her politics might be to the GOP’s (although being a Canadian, she knows socialized medicine will not bring on the apocalypse), she wouldn’t vote for the current GOP for a simple, old-fashioned reason: there’s something to be said, she would say, for respect and decorum—something to be said for being a mentsch. Something that isn’t being said these days in Chester Basin, Nova Scotia, where a teenager’s t-shirt has sparked a nationwide debate about religious freedom.

The t-shirt in question has been worn for over a week, by a 19-year-old Halifax high school student named William Swiminer. The quotation on the t-shirt is taken from the Bible, the Book of Philippians: “Life is Wasted without Jesus.” The word “wasted” is printed in a large, psychedelic-style font, which originally led me to believe the shirt was ironic, the kind of thing you could buy at a store that specializes in beer cozies. It’s not. But that doesn’t mean it’s escaped controversy. According to the principal of Forest Heights Community School, which Swiminer attends, a number of students were deeply offended by the t-shirt’s message, which they took to mean that those who reject Jesus are “wasting” their lives. Taking their point, the principal told Swiminer, who has been known to proselytize in science class—an activity he calls “witnessing”—to stop wearing the shirt to school. He didn’t. Instead, he wore it all day and every day through a series of in-school suspensions and one that sent him home.

Suddenly a star was born: Swiminer’s refusal to heed his school’s demand (and apparently do laundry) captured the hearts of religious freedom types across the country, and in no time the very people allegedly wasting their lives, were wasting their time defending him: The Atlantic Jewish Council (wasting away without Jesus since 1975), the Islamic Association of Nova Scotia (since 1966), and even The Centre for Inquiry—a national organization of atheists and agnostics—all came out in support of Swiminer’s protest, denouncing his school board for silencing free speech and freedom of religion. Even Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative leader, Jaimie Baillie hopped on the bandwagon, arguing that Swiminer’s rights had been “trampled” on. Finally the board caved in, and the 19-year-old was given permission to return to school in his favourite t-shirt.

It was a great day for freedom of expression. But a terrible day for tact. Swiminer should not be allowed to wear the shirt in question to school, not because it’s overtly religious, but because, like some of its more secular t-shirt counterparts (Bart Simpson’s “Eat My Shorts,” say), it’s rude. There is a great difference between cherishing a belief and wielding it like a weapon. If I eat meat and my dinner guests are vegetarians, I’m not going to serve steak on principle. If I’m anti-gun control and my guests are pro, I’m not going to pull out my revolver at the dinner table. Widespread support for Swiminer’s behaviour gives young people the impression that bravado is substance, and boasting and belittling others, a stand in for belief. The most sincerely devout people I know are the most discreet—which isn’t to say that they are ashamed of their faith but exactly the opposite: it’s far too precious to flaunt.

So while we should never try to restrict a person’s right to worship, we should feel no compunction about questioning his methods of worship: whether, for example, he observes modestly, or (think Jeremy Lin) publicly declares his every three point shot the greatest miracle since Moses parted the red sea. Whether he prays between classes, or disrupts them. Whether he privately lauds his particular deity or announces, “My God’s better than your God” (which William Swiminer effectively did.) That is a valid question. And it’s one that our religious and political leaders have answered irresponsibly by making a martyr out of a cocky teenage boy. As grandma likes to say: Not a statesman in the bunch.


Not that stupid Jesus T-shirt again

  1. He just wanted his 15 minutes of fame, and he got it.

    Maybe he’s looking for a scholarship to pastor-school….he’s 19 and still in high school after all, so I doubt he can get one any other way.

    • Many conventional and special-needs students struggle through secondary school for reasons of cognitive, social, and motivational weakness. Perhaps that is why he is in high school still. Perhaps his post-secondary prospects are thin; yet to scoff at his academic abilities, and speculate with disdain, seems uncouth, inept, and unintelligent to me.

      • Or one could just go with Occam’s razor.

  2. He cannot be told to remove the shirt because it offends others. Fortunately (or unfortunately), freedom of speech isn’t curbed by insulting others. If that were the case, then the Islamophobia motion put forward by Pakistan in the U.N would have passed, prohibiting any derogatory remark regarding muslims an indictable offense. We don’t need to respect his views, we just need to tolerate them.

    • In general your position is sensible but they’re minors in high school and a lot of leeway is given to rules for the sake of rules, so i am in not sure he can’t be told to remove the shirt because it may be offensive.

      • Who decides what is offensive? Seriously. Who chooses what is offensive and what is not? You? Teitel? Dan Savage? What is there to recommend about you or them? Where is your carefully thought out doctrine that can be reviewed? Where is your teaching on a given matter recorded? Where is your law code? What have the results of your policy been? Where can I go to see said policies in action? Where are your source documents? Who are your ideological ancestors and how did they come about believing the things they do? Who do I go to if you are advocating things that are completely disconnected from any standard? How do I know that what your are saying today will not be renounced tomorrow?

        In short, your position is ad hoc. A nearly random mix of personal preference. Your social currency is worse than fiat. There is no trustworthy basis to it.

        You are writing cheques you can’t cash.

        • To answer your “question” he school admin pretty much gets to decide what you can wear and can’t. if that upsets you, or doesn’t meet your abstract criteria for legitimacy, neither you nor the students have a lot of say in it, kiddo.

          You will find quite often it’s just how the world works.

          • You do not have any idea what you are talking about. You are completely disconnected from historical continuity. Your incapacity to for honest self-assessment of the relevance of your individual existence in relationship to the context of your arising is breath taking.

            You have forwarded no answer to any of my questions (I asked more than one so plural is the correct use). Nor could any of my questions properly be considered abstract. Do you even know what the word means?

  3. I absolutely agree that it was wrong for the school to “trample” this student’s rights, because in our society we are constantly being plagued and bombarded by people on the streets denouncing the fact the jesus exists publicly and proudly. Yet though it offends me i don’t go and call the police on them, which in this case is essentially what this principal did. Furthermore, this article’s comment that the student’s t-shirt is rude is wrong, because if anything it is the truth and it is a truth that not everyone always wants to hear. Moreover, the fact that your dinner guests are vegetarian doesn’t stop u the meat-eater from eating meat in their presence it just mean that you need to make a vegetarian option for them.

    • Before you get carried away with this, imagine a student wearing a t-shirt that says ‘there is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet’….and see how you feel about that.

      Or a kid wearing ‘there is no god, so enjoy your life’.

      There’s a reason we try to keep religion out of schools.

      • That’s the entire point. If someone were to wear the t-shirts you described, they should not be asked to not wear them. Whether or not I agree with what the t-shirt says should not restrict the wearer from wearing it. How many articles of clothing have you seen that barely hide obscenities? That should conclude the case.

        • Most schools have a dress code….and you can either ban all printed shirts, or allow all of them….or the principal can decide on an individual disputed case.

          Our local high school does the last….and the student is told to either wear the T inside out for the rest of the day, or go home. This method is PTA-approved, and they back the principal on the decisions

        • I don’t think you get it. What matters isn’t whether you agree with what the t-shirt says, but whether Emily does.

          • No, what matters is that this kid is trying to start a fight.

            He’s stirring the pot, hoping to get famous.

            I don’t care what he wears on his t-shirt…..but next week, since he’s been allowed to do this….there might be others showing up with different t’s, saying all the other things…and teen boys being what they are….will soon be in a physical fight.

  4. I tend to agree that what he wears shouldn’t be an issue.

    Now.. if he’s disrupting science class with his “witnessing”, put his ass outside and flunk him.

    • Now THAT I agree with!

    • Yes.

    • And what if he is simply expressing his views on creation?

  5. If he was wearing the shirt on religious principle Ms.Teitel’s opinion on how he SHOULD act are not worth a hill of beans. That’s what’s great about Canada.

    (This is not an invitation for people to opine on the sincerity of the boy’s beliefs, which neither you nor I can tell from the article).

  6. “Widespread support for Swiminer’s behaviour gives young people the
    impression that bravado is substance, and boasting and belittling
    others, a stand in for belief.”

    I can think of dozens of celebrities who’ve impressed young minds in the manner Teitel has denounced far more broadly and effectively than Mr. Siminer has been able to do with his T-Shirt in New Scotland; yet popular culture has made these people desireable and weathly.

    While I dislike rudeness, and am supportive of tact, offensiveness (be it real of perceived) is a natural part of human behaviour. Ignore the boy, lest his actions disrupt others while learning.

    Moreover, drawing attention to something that one dislikes because of the attention it receives seems rather odd to me.

  7. The second wave of reporting on this issue disclosed that the man in question has done an extensive amount of proselytizing, including informing many of his fellow students that they are going to hell. According to those fellow students, he’s no model of tolerance – quite the opposite.

    So it’s not merely a question of freedom of speech of religion, but of religious harassment and how to deal with it properly and effectively. A lot of news outlets have omitted this information, and as a result a lot of people, religious and otherwise, have celebrated him without knowing the full story.

    I’d say more, but I’ve lost confidence that *I* have the full story.

    • I don’t think the news outlets missed anything if the reason he was given for his suspension was that he wore the T-shirt. Who cares if he’s a jerk if that’s not the reason he was suspended? I’d also point out that lots of teenage boys are in-your-face jerks. Are we going to start suspending all of them or just the ones that wear weird T-shirts that may offend somebody’s sensibilites?

      • Thanks for the reply.

        I think the information about the proselytizing makes a very big difference to most people. It sure did to me. If it were only a matter of the T-shirt, I agree that a suspension is way overboard. But it’s not.

        If you’re saying the school’s handling of the situation leaves something to be desired, I agree.

        And yes, for the record, I believe that in-your-face jerks who cross a certain line should be suspended. I don’t think anyone should be harassed for holding a particular religious opinion, and that seems to be what he was doing.

    • Check out what Jesus had to say.

      • Funny thign about that…”the bible” wasn’t written by Jesus. Wasn’t even written by “god.” It was written by men who lived long after Jesus was dead and gone. CENTURIES LATER in many cases. Turns out that there’s no “Book of Jesus” in the bible…convenient how so many people knew what he said and what he thought and what he meant, but not for decades or centuries after his death, isn’t it?


  8. Not that stupid indoctrinated lefty media drone again.

  9. A teenage boy has been picked on by authorities and other fishwife liberals and now our msm is judging his comportment. Presumably Teitel went to a swiss finishing school and feels comfortable judging people’s behaviour, I doubt very much I would have passed her comportment test when I was teenager but we can’t all be as lofty as Teitel.

  10. What a load. Who judges what is rude? Emma Teitel. According to her, Christian beliefs are inherently rude. So rude that they should not be said.

    She has that familiar anything goes attitude, as long as nobody actually says or does anything. She believes that nobody is allowed to profess their beliefs, because we don’t all agree. This, of course, does not apply to minorities, some of whom hide their faces from us due to their beliefs (burqa), yet I’m sure Ms Teitel would not consider that rude, when in fact it has always been traditionally rude in Canada to wear hats indoors and to cover one’s face in public company. But Ms Teitel here has decided she will be the arbiter of what’s rude. Christianity is rude.

    Not only that, but Ms Teitel managed to insert a convenient assault on the US GOP. This is a story that originated in Nova Scotia, and has absolutely nothing to do with Mitt Romney (who is Mormon and doesn’t even share the same religions as the vast majority of GOP voters or Americans at large). But no, she couldn’t resist the opportunity to turn a Nova Scotia story about t-shirts in school, into an attack on the US Republicans. The only connection whatsoever is the fact that yes, we have Christians in Canada who profess their religion in public (God forbid Ms Teitel should have to experience such horrors).

    I’m not Christian nor Muslim, but one thing is for sure, I have no problem if they want to profess their beliefs. It’s people who think they should not be allowed to do so, those are the people that scare me, because those people have no respect for fundamental freedoms.

    • “….but Ms Teitel managed to insert a convenient assault on the US GOP.”

      Bill O’Reilly lives under Teitel’s bed, haven’t you noticed? Week after week, Teitel writes about right wing americans and how they scare her, I often find it hard to tell which country she lives in. Everything wrong in the world is somehow US republicans fault – if we could just get rid of boorish rick santorum, the world would be a place of kittens, rainbows and lollipops.

      • Yes, it does seem somewhat pathological, to be making references to Mitt Romney in an article like this one. “Respect and decorum” would prevail if only Republicans were gone, she says. Liberals like here are the ones who define “respect and decorum”. It really seems like a form of paranoia.

    • It’s always a pleasure to interact with a rational atheist, even if it’s just on an online comment board. Calls into question the message on the t-shirt in a way that stifling it didn’t.

      • Well I do enjoy and usually agree with your comments as well. Yes, I would disagree with the statement on the t-shirt myself, but many friends and family would agree with it, and there’s no way in heck I’d tell anyone that the message is inappropriate. Maybe wearing a t-shirt with any message to a formal dinner would be rude, but wearing a t-shirt to a high school with no dress code is the perfect time to be expressing oneself, it’s not the slightest bit rude. If t-shirts are allowed at his school then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the one he’s wearing.

  11. I’m going to get slammed for this but here it goes anyways. There was a time that peer pressure (ie. bullying) would have shied anyone of wearing the same shirt repeatedly.
    The media should ignore him. The school should either have a valid position against his shirt being worn or drop it. The rest of us will ultimately forget him by Friday.

  12. What i appreciate about Canada is that we do not tolerate or respect freedom at all costs, much like they do in the US. Freedom of speech/religion is not acceptable if it offends or makes others feel extremely uncomfortable, especially when it is being done in a place where those others can’t leave if they want to. The distinction I make with Freedom of religion is that if you want to express your love for your religion on a shirt, fine. If you want to attack other people’s beliefs, not fine. It really should be that simple.

    • So if I wear a t-shirt that says “God is not great”, is that fine or not fine? I mean, if I’m an atheist this is just me expressing my beliefs. If I’m a Muslim it’s blasphemous and offensive.

      Is it really “that simple”? Tell you what: how about we let people decide what to wear for themselves unless there’s some compelling social good at stake. Delicate feelings don’t count.

  13. I don’t know about a life without Jesus, but I’m pretty sure that a Macleans column without 30 seconds of thought is wasted. I’m also willing to bet that Ms. Teitel would have no problem with t-shirts that say “God is pro-choice”, even though some of us find those offensive (and yet we don’t claim they should be grounds for suspension from a public school).

    Is there a dress code at the school? If not, this guy’s got the same right as everyone else to choose his t-shirt. Whether it’s in good taste is beside the point. If everyone who showed bad taste got kicked out of school, Ms. Teitel would still be completing Grade 9.

    A couple of newsflashes for Ms. Teitel:
    (1) To subscribe to Christianity is to believe that it is true, and thus better than other religions which contradict it. To subscribe to atheism is to believe that it is true, and thus better than religious belief. It’s pretty meaningless to say you’re all in favour of religious freedom and freedom of expression as long as people only express the beliefs to which you don’t object and worship only in an approved manner.

    (2) “Widespread support for Swiminer’s behaviour gives young people the impression that bravado is substance, and boasting and belittling others, a stand in for belief.”

    Actually no, when “The Atlantic Jewish Council” (sic), the Islamic Association of Nova Scotia, and “The Centre for Inquiry” (sic) come out in favour of a young man’s right to wear a Jesus shirt (whether “stupid” or not), it’s pretty clear the issue actually is about freedom of expression rather than about belittling non-Christians. I suspect this is even obvious to “young people”, although not, perhaps, to those who’ve been lobotomized in journalism classes.

    (3) It’s called the “Epistle of Paul to the Philippians” or sometimes just “Philippians”, not “the Book of Philippians”. Cred depends on showing that you have some basic clue as to what you’re talking about, but hey, who the hell cares what those nutty Christians call their scripture, am I right? I mean, the point is totally that they should keep their nutty views to themselves. Can’t they just freely express their craziness in private?

    • Wow, hate much?

    • You certainly make a point. Do you suspect some of the audience you are addressing might find your style condescending and patronizing?

    • Atheists are really just applying scientific objective principles to the existence of a supernatural authority. While many religious sorts attempt to make the question solely one of belief to try to make their views on an equal level to those approaching the question rationally, one side has scientific support the other does not. That’s not to say we shouldn’t value religious beliefs and even the right to make their kooky little claims up to the point of hate speech, but it’s also important to remember at the end of the day they’re wrong.

      • What a word salad of unsubstantiated premises and anti-historical reasoning you’ve managed to toss together. Your naivete is breath taking.

        • I think we would all be better served if you stopped pretending you have anything worthwhile to say, here.

          • Sure, I’m the one pretending. Right.

      • Newton ~ Principia Mathetica:

        ‘Tis allowed by all that the supreme God exists necessarily; and by the same necessity he exists always and every where. Whence also he is all similar, all eye, all ear, all brain, all arm, all power to perceive, to understand, and to act; but in a manner not at all human, in a manner not at all corporeal, in a manner utterly unknown to us. As a blind man has no idea of colours, so have we no idea of the manner by which the all-wise God perceives and understands all things. He is utterly void of all body and bodily figure, and can therefore neither be seen, nor heard, not touched; nor ought he to be worshipped under the representation of any corporeal thing.

        We have ideas of his attributes, but what the real substance of anything is we know not. In bodies, we see only their figures and colours, we hear only the sounds, we touch only their outward surfaces, we smell only the smells, and taste the savours; but their inward substances are not to be known, either by our senses, or by any reflex act of our minds; much less then have we any idea of the substance of God.

        We know him only by his most wise and excellent contrivances of things, and final causes; we admire him for his perfections; but we reverence and adore him on account of his dominion. For we adore him as his servants; and a God without dominion, providence, and final causes, is nothing else but Fate and Nature. Blind metaphysical necessity, which is certainly the same always and every where, could produce no variety of things. All that diversity of natural things which we find, suited to different times and places, could arise from nothing but the ideas and will of a Being necessarily existing.

        • For all that comment was worth, i sure hope you cut and pasted rather than typed.

        • “All the diversity of natural things which we find, suited to different times and places, could arise from nothing but the ideas of wiil of a Being necessarliy existing.”

          While we may now know how wrong Newton was when he wrote this, I don’t think it’s fare to mock him, considering he wrote it 150 years before Darwin’s Origin of Species.
          A contemporary Newton certainly wouldn’t make the same mistake.

      • I’ll call BS on that. There’s nothing scientific about atheism, there’s nothing unscientific about religion, and if anything the evidence weighs in religion’s favour. That’s not to say we shouldn’t value people’s right to deny the existence of a deity, and even the right to make up kooky claims that suggest they know very little about either science or religion, but it’s also important to remember that at the end of the day they too will agree on the point.

        • Outlandish claims need verification. Religion provides none. Period.

          • First sentence is true. Second sentence is false unless preceded by the qualifier “some”, thus rendering the conclusion (and the “Period”) invalid. There’s your problem.

          • When scientsts prove the existence of a god i am sure it will be in the papers. Till then there is nothing you can teach me on the subject.

          • whoopsies on the quintuple post. highly embarrassed.

          • When scientsts prove the existence of a god i am sure it will be in the papers. Till then there is nothing you can teach me on the subject.

          • When scientsts prove the existence of a god i am sure it will be in the papers. Till then I’m certainly not going to pay heed to irrational internet scribbling.

          • When scientsts prove the existence of a god i am sure it will be in the papers. Till then I’m certainly not going to pay heed to irrational internet scribbling.

        • The day that God’s existence is proven will be the day religion ends. God will become part of science, measurable, quantifiable and open for research. The atheists and the religous will hate it, the agnostics will be relieved that they had the sense to say “I don’T know

  14. Well put.

    I tend to think about it this way: if someone wore a t-shirt that said ‘Life is WASTED without Satan’ you would not have these same ‘freedom of religion types’ (hello Mr. Orwell) standing up for her or him. I would deplore such a t-shirt being worn at school for the exact same reason you proposed, it’s f’ing rude!

    • I suspect you’d get the same reaction from the “freedom of religion” types if you wore a shirt that said ‘Life is wasted without Mohammed’. I’m sure the inter-faith reaction would be the same (the Jewish council, and possibly the archdiocese would probably defend a shirt like that), but the politicians and online Speech Warriors (TM) wouldn’t defend the boy with a ten foot pole.

      • I’d sure hope so. But Satanism is a religion as well, albeit one that glorifies animism, lust and greed. Purely conjecture on my point, granted, but I still don’t believe that these groups would fight for one’s right to be wearing such a t-shirt. That being said, let’s keep religion out of our schools because it is disrespectful to the other people in the schools who do not practice said religions as this article points out, yeah?

        • Religion is just a method of controlling the weak-minded, and getting them to “believe what they’re told” without ever resorting to the infinitely dangerous practise of “thinking about things rationally.”

          Really…would this world be in the state it’s in if people thought about ANYTHING of any real importance?

          OH LOOK! Two girls are gonna tear eachother’s shirts off on Jerry Springer! Better watch this! Gonna be good! Ooooooooooh-weeeeeeee!

    • How about a T-shirt with picture of Jesus suffering on the cross and beneath the slogan says, “Life is WASTED on superstition.” Or maybe this one: “I can see my house from here.”

      • My post: Wearing t-shirts which obnoxiously proclaim the certitude of your beliefs regarding religion to others is rude and thus should not be worn at schools.
        The following: ‘a T-shirt with picture of Jesus suffering on the cross and beneath the slogan says, “Life is WASTED on superstition.” is obnoxiously stating a certitude regarding a belief about a religion and should not be worn. Whether or not I agree with it (and if you’re curious I do) is irrelevant and the shirt should not be worn to a school.
        Glad I could sort that out for you.

        • I don’t really care about the goofball and his silly T-shirt — I just like a good Jesus joke :p (of course I do have somewhat of a warped sense of humor…)

  15. I think Ms.Teitel’s position can be summed up by the old expression “just because you can do a thing, doesn’t mean that you should do a thing”. Does he have a right to wear the shirt? Probably. Does he need to? Not really.

    Personally, I’d like to think (hope) that the Christian faith isn’t reliant on one media hungry teenage boy’s ability to wear a mildly obnoxious T-shirt at a public school. As someone much wiser than I once said about the relationship between religion and secular authority, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”

  16. I’ve got one problem with this article. You misspelled “mentsch.” There is no T in either yiddish or german, where the word originates. Sorry, just really bugged me.

  17. I think it is absolutely legitimate for schools to have codes of conduct, which include what students can wear (and if I recall, I think my high school restricted political messages and possibly religious ones). Wearing a shirt loudly proclaiming one’s faith is not inimical to any religion. If the school enforces its code of conduct even-handedly, I have no problem.

    That said, I think the “tact” point Ms. Teitel makes misses the point of these kinds of expressions. Aggressive proselytizing and exclusive statements aren’t really about acquiring converts. They’re about provoking confrontation, which hardens the beliefs of people that are already in one camp or another. This is something that both sides do – the converse of “Life is Wasted Without Jesus” are the nearly identical bus ads “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” As a centrist in the “war on religion”*, I can definitively say that neither side is making much headway converting me.

    *My beliefs are something like Deism; I go to church at Christmas; I pray rarely – usually when I’m in dire straits; I think the Bible is an allegorical text with core stories that provide a pretty good moral guide; I think life in a meaningful sense – ie. the capacity for sentience – begins neither at conception nor birth; I’m pro-gay marriage; but I have qualms about assisted suicide.

  18. Your grandmother is old and wise enough to know that the greatest evil can hide in the most beautiful things, that Israel might flounder not only from rocket attacks but from those who claim that only their religion can produce valuable human beings.

  19. Thanks Ms. Teitel. Great article and well written. It reminded me of an essay by Kevin Baker in Harper’s: “Barack Hoover Obama: The Best and The Brightest Blow It Again”. Certainly not an indorsement of his presidency, but in it Mr. Baker states (paraphrasing): “At home and abroad Barack Obama appeared to be the only adult in the room”. I was hoping that that statement didn’t extend to our politicians and level of discourse. Given this ridiculous t-shirt situation I’m not so sure.

  20. High schools certainly have the right to impose codes that are more restrictive than those applied to general society (assuming they are levied evenly and fairly, something that can prove problematic on a case-by-case basis).

    My two cents is that attacking or supporting ideas is fair game, but that demeaning or needlessly offending people ought not be (all considered within the context of the high school environment, where the fact is that they are legally children under the care of adults expected to reasonably consider the values of collective parents).

    For the shirt in question, it then boils down to an interpretation of the message. Is it meant to demean or somehow attack those who do not worship Jesus? Or is it a more abstract statement of the wearer’s personal philosophy (i.e., “my” life would be wasted). One could easily argue either interpretation, in which case I’d argue the benefit of the doubt should lie with seeing this as an expression of ideas. Yes, the kid is obviously something of a religious d**chebag if he’s spouting off in class, but even broken clocks are right twice per day. And it’s rarely the soft-spoken, bland individuals that test our boundaries of freedom; but rather the brash blowhards who are immune to the subtle social pressures that nudge most of us toward conformity.

    As an expression of ideas, and one that ought not overly offend anyone, the shirt should have been allowed. Amongst the multitude of suggested behaviours our kids are subject to (and I seem to recall peer behaviour and pressure counting a helluva lot more than T-shirt slogans when I was younger), I think they can be fairly expected to shrug and move on from religious propaganda. Put another way, if parents honestly feel their children are too fragile to encounter such a message on a shirt, how on earth do they expect kids to handle the more pragmatic and visceral pressures all teens must face?

    For the record, I’m an atheist who doesn’t have a lot of use for religion. I’m raising my kids to see the world that way, but I’d pretty much laugh at them if they came home and told me a t-shirt made them feel threatened or badly.

    • Just a quick afterthought… We tend to be hyper-sensitive toward religious propaganda in schools, all the while ignoring more secular messages that are prominent, often endorsed by the administration, and most certainly in the realm of morals and values. Anti-drug campaigns, singing the national anthem, spirit/pep rallies, and environmentalist campaigns all come to mind off the top of my head. Like most religious messages, all of those take ideas that have generally (but not universally) accepted ideas of “good”, and then proceed to elevate them to positions of both moral and objective truths that make counter-hegemony practically impossible for all but the bravest souls. I have three kids in the school system right now, and those sorts of fascist groupthink worry me much more than any individual’s shirt (regardless of my agreement or disagreement with the particular moral stance advocated, as that’s not really the point).

      • I agree with you. Good comment. Those are the types of things that worry me more too. They have no specific connection to any known religion. But in many ways they are religious in nature, based on only half-truths or the facts as we know them, while ignoring uncertainties, differences of opinion, and unknowns. Many such things are elevated into the categories of “good” and even “moral” or “ethical” and any opposing viewpoints are vehemently shunned.

        • None of these are anywhere near the wool that Ezra Levant pulls over his followers with his absurd lies about human rights commissions.

    • Yes. And as usual, one finds the best comment on the thread by opening the hidden ones. What a terrific system.

      • Somebody needs to look up the word “usual”.

  21. The kid is NINETEEN in grade 12. He has issues. Like he be dum.

  22. First sentence, “flounder” not “founder”!
    The T-shirt is an insult to anyone who does not buy into the Jesus myth, is a remember of any other religion, or is an athiest or agnostic!
    Its like wandering around with sign on that says: You’re an idiot unless you think like me!”
    Anyone who did so would be considered an idiot, and so is this kid and his Dad!

    • found·er
      Verb:(of a ship) Fill with water and sink: “six drowned when the yacht foundered off the Florida coast”.
      Synonyms: verb. sink – collapse – fail – go down

    • So you obviously haven’t given any thought to how you (we) got here and where you’re (we’re) going when you (we) die. Wait a minute, you must be a proponent of the big bang or some other equally ludicrous idea. I mean, it takes more faith to believe that than just believing in an all-loving God. Why so many people write off the God who made them is beyond my comprehension and I’m left feeling sad for them that they don’t have any desire to know Him personally.

      • That’s your personal belief, but it has nothing to do with the rest of us.

    • Actually it’s not at all like that. The message is pretty clear: if you live without Christ your life will miss its sole purpose. This is not an insult, but a simple restatement of Christian belief.

      The analogy for atheists would be “if you live for Christ you’re wasting your life. He’s dead.” Again, not an insult to any other individuals, but a simple restatement of atheist belief.

      I can’t believe this is even obscure enough to merit this much of a discussion, but I often underestimate the emotional reactions of many atheists to any form of disagreement. I used to be one myself and I don’t recollect being like that, but perhaps it went unnoticed on my part.

      • That’s because you were never an atheist. A rebel for awhile perhaps, but not an atheist.

        • Exhibit A: it is inadmissible to suggest that someone could have once been an atheist and then decided to reject it.

          • You made a statement about what atheists ‘believe’…..when the point about being an atheist is that they have no beliefs on deities…..anymore than you have ‘beliefs’ about Zeus or Odin….they are just stories and myths.

            So obviously you never understood atheism in the first place.

  23. If that shirt is allowed, the Bart Simpson one should also be allowed. Both are equally tacky and rude

  24. This kid’s just being obnoxious, and getting a lot of attention for it too, which he’s probably enjoying. The school’s only job here really is to keep the peace, and I’m not sure banning him was the best way to do it, given the result, but what else were they supposed to do?

    It’s a seemingly tough question, but not as tough as many seem wont to believe.

    People have a right to their opinions and their beliefs, they have a right to lobby government and society in general and the right to exercise free speech in a public forum, amongst other things.
    What they don’t have a right to do is interfere with someone else’s private life against their wishes.

    There’s an important difference between expressing oneself in a public forum versus imposing oneself into other people’s private day to day lives, be they at shool, at work or even just shopping for groceries.

    Live and let live. To do otherwise is to invite the kind of chaos that will result when others start figuring that they might as well visit some of own rudeness on these types, and we sure don’t want things to starting going there do we?

    It might sound funny, but my first reaction to a guy making big waves with a t-shirt like that would be to find my own t-shirt that was as offensive to him as his was to me. How long before that would devolve do you think?

  25. When I was going to school, I wanted to wear a t-shirt that said “Time is never wasted when you’re wasted all the time” but I knew I’d get suspended if I did.

  26. This should not be allowed. Next we will be seeing Dr Seuss quotes used in the classroom to support partisan labour politics.

  27. What is it about kids today that they can’t just laugh at the guy? In my day he’d be ridiculed.

    Instead these kids are rolling over and playing victim and asking the principal to take care of it? What? I mean – WHAT?

  28. A message like that is exclusive, and arrogant. It’s no better than a nazi slogan. Religion that demeans anyone that is not into it’s dogma is excretal at least!

  29. That T-shirt message was exclusive and obnoxious. Such a message is in bad taste.
    Any religion that demeans anyone that does not follow it’s dogma is excretal at best!

  30. The most important thing is to believe in the regionally-disseminated lore that you were told when you were a child without ever stopping to think about the fact that your particular “only real god” would be a different “only real god” than it is today had you been born in a different geographical area.

    I think it’s high time that all of the invisible omnipotent deities of the world came together and proved that at least one of them actually existed! Let’s put this geographically-oriented fairy tale competition to rest once and for all!

    The date is Saturday, May 12th, 2012, at 7:30 PM (to give people time to get there after work, but to still allow for some daylight) and the location is at the top of the CN Tower in downtown Toronto. Any “real god” not showing up within 50 feet (above, below, or immediately adjacent) of the top of the tower WILL BE DISQUALIFIED.

    All you “only real gods”: BE THERE OR BE SQUARE! We’re having an armageddon party once and for all! Any “real god” who does not show his/her/its/their face(s) at this event will be assumed to either be afraid of the “real gods” who DO show up at this event, or will be assumed to not actually exist.

    Note: Any “real god” failing to use “miraculous transporation methods” such as appearing on a train, being seen at any bus station, using the TTC, or at or near Pearson Airport WILL BE DISQUALIFIED from the competition.


    • The real God doesn’t answer to mortals who dictate conditions. Sorry. You’ll find out soon enough whether there is a real God. Willing to take the chance? Nothing to lose, everything to gain.

      • And where were you born, so that I can pick the religion that you believe holds “the real god?” d=o)

        I’m willing to take the chance, alright! My first question will be: “Why did you go to such great lengths to hide any possible evidence of your existence?”

        Send him over…he knows where I’ll be. d;o)

        PS: I won’t expect it…because I already that your “real god” is a little chicken shit…otherwise he wouldn’t spend all of his/her/its time hiding from the entire planet.

  31. the person who wrote this article is one of those who wouldnt say——- if his mouth was full of it….everyone else is allowed to show their beliefs …I am proud and amazed that this boy stands up for Christianity when the person who wrote this letter….would hide his religion … his attitude is sorry if I offend you and of course you dont offend my by showing yours…no it doesnt matter that the beliefs of my fathers are no longer relevant is his attitude….We need more people in Canada that will stand up for Christianity. I applaud his shirt.

  32. This young man is going through a phase, and that is rather cute. We all go through phases, and these are important to our development. God forbid that we are not allowed to go through phases: you make love one night and have the resulting baby delivered to you in the morning; or that no one is allowed to learn their trade but are picked out of a line-up and expected to act as brain surgeons without having the benefit of training. This young man has discovered the religion of his elders and wishes to joyfully share it with others. Eventually, he will be naturally socialized by the counter-reactions of others. In all likelihood, there is no harm done, as in all the other mis-steps one makes in the early adulthood. Forgetaboutit!

  33. I’m sure you would have found Jesus himself to be a very rude person.

  34. A question for both sides: Would you be saying the same as you are now if a student wore a t shirt with an aggresive atheist message of the kind that now appears on some British buses (“God probably doesn’t exist, so stop worrying and enjoy your life”)? There is something to be said for the old British practice of school uniform. Questions like this just did not come up and we were arguably the better for it.

  35. Being ‘Born-Again’ Linked to More Brain Atrophy: Study

    WEDNESDAY, May 25 (HealthDay News) — Older adults who say they’ve had a life-changing religious experience are more likely to have a greater decrease in size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain critical to learning and memory, new research finds.

    According to the study, people who said they were a “born-again” Protestant or Catholic, or conversely, those who had no religious affiliation, had more hippocampal shrinkage (or “atrophy”) compared to people who identified themselves as Protestants, but not born-again.

    The study is published online in PLoS ONE.

    Read more: http://www.philly.com/philly/health/132456883.html#ixzz1uhn07q00

  36. I observed a huge billboard in Trinidad years ago, “There is No God But Allah”. Their freedom of speech was loudly proclaimed beside the highway. While some may disagree, they have the right to say what they believe, and so does this boy. Not only did the Lord tell us to proclaim the gospel (good news) throughout the world to everyone, but the T-shirt in question I think was made more to generate interest, possibly questions about why the boy believed that, giving him opportunity to tell others why. Offensive t-shirts and slogans have always been around, the obsession with skulls and death for the last couple of decades, for instance. What’s wrong with offering a new viewpoint or hope to a jaded, faithless and depressed generation? Now, if he was obnoxious, disruptive or insulting that is different, but give the kid a break, are you afraid he might just have a point there? As the man said, we’ll all find out who’s right in the end, won’t we?

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