I’ve never thought of a rosary as a something that “denotes membership in an organized gang.”
But apparently the Anoka-Hennepin School District does.
We’re not talking about the kind of Catholic “gang” that gathers for Sunday worship at your local parish. We’re talking the variety that instigates violent crime and other mayhem.
According to a story I read today on the CBS-Minnesota website, the district told a 15-year-old student to remove a rosary he was wearing as a necklace.
The district’s discipline policy forbids “any apparel, jewelry, accessories, or matter of grooming which by virtue of its color arrangement, trademark, or any other attribute (as a primary purpose) denotes membership in an organized gang.”
Jake Balthazor, who is Lutheran, said he wears the rosary to support and pray for his grandmother, who has breast cancer — something the district didn’t initially realize, according to an update of the original story, and school officials were hoping to find a compromise.
Although I wouldn’t advocate wearing a rosary this way — the beads are intended to aid prayer after all, not to serve as jewelry — the boy’s heart is in the right place.
But, before you criticize the district for lacking common sense, you should know that it was apparently operating on information provided by local police.
The story said the district recently received a letter from a police liaison stating: “A new issue came up recently that is interesting regarding rosary beads. Some gangs do use them as clothing symbols. The gangs identified around here that have been using them are the Latin Kings and the Surenos.”
How sad is that?
One good use for a rosary would be to pray for an end to gangs like these that do nothing more than inflict physical, emotional and spiritual pain on youth, families and struggling neighborhoods.