A Christian student suspended from a high school in Nova Scotia for sporting a T-shirt with the slogan “Life is wasted without Jesus” vows to wear it when he returns to class next week.
William Swinimer, who’s in Grade 12, was suspended from Forest Heights Community School in Chester Basin in Lunenburg County for five days. He’s due to return to class on Monday.
The devout Christian says the T-shirt is an expression of his beliefs, and he won’t stop wearing it.
“I believe there are things that are bigger than me. And I think that I need to stand up for the rights of people in this country, and religious rights and freedom of speech,” he told CBC.
Swinimer wore the same shirt to class for weeks on end, the article goes on, but teachers and students were starting to feel like it was less a message about personal beliefs and more like a passive attempt to convert the entire student body. As Nancy Pynch-Worthylake, board superintendent, put it –
“When one is able or others are able to interpret it as, ‘If you don’t share my belief then your life is wasted,’ that can be interpreted by some as being inappropriate,” she said.
Swinimer was too wrapped up in his own feelings of persecution to see it that way, though, and was willing to risk losing the rest of his school year over his shirt. I was curious about what other coverage this story had and found CBC’s update. The school board has reconsidered.
Swinimer called the board’s decision “awesome” and said he will be wearing his T-shirt to school on Monday.
“Some people say you’re not supposed to have religion in school. Well, every other religion is in that school and they constantly put Christianity down,” he said.
I don’t know what he means by that. Is he saying his school looks the other way while kids from other religious backgrounds blatantly insult the Christian kids, or did the school make the decision to be less Christian-centric and open things up to more secular events like winter festivals instead of Christmas parties?
Pinch-Worthylake said the board will use this incident as a learning moment for everyone, adding that it is time to move on.
“We’re going to be working with students around how they can express their religious views and other views appropriately, and how we work together when those views may be interpreted or misinterupted by others,” she said.
“So, the focus is off the T-shirt. Whatever T-shirts come to school on Monday with personal beliefs will not be an issue for us.”
And that might help with whatever perceived slurs Swinimer claims are hurting li’l Christian feelings, too. Personally, I think he still needs to be taken aside and reminded that school hours are for class work, not proselytizing. He’s going to waste his life if he doesn’t care more about getting a good education and it won’t matter how much love for Jesus he has if he can’t get a good job as well. I expect this story will follow him for years and there will be places that will not hire him – not because he’s Christian, but because he comes across as arrogant, self-centered and willfully ignorant of the fact it’s perfectly acceptable to not be Christian.
I like the way you summarized at the end. He sounds like a judgemental zealot, and that likely won’t serve him well.
I’m not sure what to think about the school’s original position. On some level I agree with it, as the shirt message is directed toward non-christians in a derogatory way. What if the shirt said something like, “NOT DOWN WITH JESUS? ENJOY ETERNAL DAMNATION!” Same basic concept but a little more harsh. Should this be permitted? How about going a step further and quoting some anti-gay bible passage? Or, how about a slogan like, “RELIGIOUS? GET OFF YOUR KNEES AND DO SOMETHING WITH YOUR LIFE!” I think it’s reasonable to ban slogans that insult groups of people based on things like creed, sexuality, etc. Like most interesting issues, there are rational arguments on both sides.