A 19-year-old California university student filed a religious accommodation request after school officials ordered her to remove a necklace with an attached crucifix because it may “offend others.”
Audrey Jarvis was working at a Sonoma State University orientation fair for the Associated Student Productions when she was told to remove her necklace, Fox News Radio reported.
“She could not wear her cross necklace because it might offend others, it might make incoming students feel unwelcome, or it might cause incoming students to feel that ASP was not an organization they should join,” Jarvis’ attorney, Hiram Sasser of the Liberty Institute, told the radio station.
“My initial reaction was one of complete shock. I was thrown for a loop,” said Jarvis, a devout Catholic. “I was offended because I believe as a Christian woman it is my prerogative to display my faith any way I like so long as it is not harming anyone else,” she said. “I was very hurt and felt as if the university’s mission statement – which includes tolerance and inclusivity to all – was violated.”
Sasser said it was hypocritical to consider such religious symbols objectionable when other forms of personal expression are OK.
“It’s unfortunate there are university officials out there who think that it’s okay to tell Christians to hide their faith – but would cringe if somebody said the same thing about hiding someone’s pride in whatever political or cultural affiliation they may have,” Sasser told Fox.
He added that California law provides that “employees may wear crosses while they are performing their duties as long as the wearing does not interfere with the employees’ duties or harm the employer’s business interests.”
University spokeswoman Susan Kashack said the school regretted the incident.
“Someone who works here was concerned that the cross might be off-putting to students who are coming to campus for the first time,” she said. “It was absolutely an inappropriate action for him to make that request of her.”
Sonoma State President Ruben Arminana was “angered” by the incident, Kashack said, and school officials are trying to contact Jarvis so they can apologize.
The essence of the First Amendment’s “free exercise clause” is religious tolerance. In the interest of tolerance, the Dearborn, Mich., school system bent over backwards to accommodate Muslim students by providing prayer space in the primary and high schools in its district.
In Jarvis’ case, we’re talking about a university setting, where tolerance, diversity and acceptance should be the norm, not the exception.
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