NEW YORK, June 2, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A federal court judge has ordered a New York school district to readmit a seventh-grade student suspended indefinitely for wearing a rosary to school after officials said the Catholic prayer beads violated the school's dress code.
U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence E. Kahn issued a temporary restraining order on Tuesday ordering Schenectady City School District to permit 13-year-old Raymond Hosier to return to classes at Oneida Middle School wearing his rosary.
Kahn responded to a same-day request by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a legal advocacy group for religious freedom, and declared that the school district’s dress code policy violated his First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution.
"We're delighted that Raymond can now return to school with his Rosary in place," said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ.
"This is an important first step in the legal process in what we believe will ultimately result in the federal district court determining that the punishment inflicted by the school district by suspending Raymond for wearing a Rosary not only was wrong, but violated his constitutionally-protected rights of free speech and free exercise of religion."
Hosier has worn a Rosary displayed around his neck and outside his shirt since September 2009. However, school officials suspended him indefinitely on the basis that the rosary violated the school district's dress code policy and was presumed to be a gang-related symbol.
The ACLJ filed a lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of Raymond and mother Chantell Hosier against the Schenectady City School District and other officials, including the principal of Oneida Middle School.
Contrary to school officials' assertions, the ACLJ argues that Hosier wears a rosary to express his faith in God, and honor the memory of a deceased uncle and a brother, who died with the same rosary in his hand. The ACLJ complaint also contends that Raymond is not a member of any criminal gang, and does not wear the beads to promote gang membership or violence.
Kahn set a hearing date for June 11. At that time, the court could grant a preliminary injunction, permitting Hosier to continue wearing his rosary in school until the court comes to a final decision.