A faceless bureaucrat cowering in a cubicle can crush fundamental human rights in 43 words. One long sentence -- embedded in one relatively short paragraph -- can present a sixth-grade girl with a dilemma not unlike that of St. Thomas More.
So far, the consequences are a bit less dire than faced by the English jurist and Catholic martyr, but once we "cut a great road through the law to get after the devil," I'm sure we'd have little problem beheading a 12-year-old for just cause.
Today, just cause for cutting down "every law in England" -- or small-town Nebraska -- to "get after the devil" begins with what have become, in these days nearer the end of the world, among the most feared words in the king's English: "We have received confirmation from the (fill in the blank) Police Department that. . . ."
SUNDAY NIGHT, KETV television in Omaha reported on a schoolhouse anti-Rosary crusade in Fremont, Neb., with what amounted to a journalistic Gallic shrug. The people in the story recounted events with a beaten-down Gallic shrug that might accompany an unspoken "But the police said! What'cha gonna do?"
A sixth-grade girl said she was told that she can't wear a necklace that resembles a rosary because it violates the dress code at the Fremont Public Schools.IN THIS crumbling American empire, receiving "confirmation" that some scumbag somewhere is wearing something to signify "Scum!" is reason enough to wreck the ordinarily innocuous for everybody. And in Fremont -- a bucolic backwater that already has cut straight to corn-fed Stalinism "to get after" undocumented Mexicans -- official word from Barney Fife is enough to impinge upon the right of Catholics to freely identify with, and practice, their faith in public schools.
Elizabeth Carey, 12, said the school adopted a policy last year banning the necklaces.
"The principal said I couldn't wear my necklace at all because gangsters were wearing it," she said.
She said the necklace is part of an outfit that she hopes expresses her faith.
Forty-three words is all it took.
We have received confirmation from the Fremont Police Department that there have been documented cases of gang activity in the Fremont community and that the wearing of a rosary as jewelry can be considered a gang symbol or a sign of gang affiliation.THE ACTUAL cutting down of all the Bill of Rights to get after the homeboys takes just 35 words:
The wearing of rosaries as jewelry at school, at a school function, or in a vehicle used for school purposes is prohibited. Please be advised that students are subject to the various disciplinary consequences and procedures.
OF COURSE, gang bangers will be as plentiful in the Fremont public schools as they ever were . . . just without their rosary necklaces. This Franciscan friar, however, probably would be tackled and handcuffed at the door.
What the hell are we supposed to do -- "give the devil the benefit of the law?"
Superintendent Steve Sexton said the policy is for student safety.KEEP your mouth shut, kid.
"We had information from law enforcement that there were documented instances of gang activity in the area and we had information that states that the rosary was being used as a symbol of gang affiliation," Sexton said.
He said rosaries have been used as gang-identification symbols in Oregon, Arizona and Texas.
Omaha Catholic Archdiocese Chancellor [sic -- the former chancellor] Rev. Joseph Taphorn said it's disheartening.
"I don't think Christians should have to forfeit what is the symbol for the love of Christ because a few people want to misuse that symbol," he said.
He said the corruption of something as beloved as the rosary disgusts the church.
"One ought to be able to figure out whether she's trying to promote a gang," Taphorn said. "If she's not, why would she be punished for her right of religious freedom and religious expression?"
Carey said she doesn't even know what a gang is. She said it makes her upset that she was punished for wearing what she thought was a necklace.
"It makes me feel like I want to scream really bad," she said.
I'm sure that Fremont Middle School has "received confirmation from the Fremont Police Department" that there have been documented cases of gang members screaming in the Fremont community and that screaming can be "considered a sign of gang affiliation."