Manuel Vigil, a high school junior in Loveland, Colo., had his rosary confiscated twice by staff at Thompson Valley High within the first three weeks of school this year. Vigil told Fox News that he wears his rosary in reverence and because it makes him feel safe, but the school officials think they are symbols of violence and gang support. The school’s accusations are ridiculous. I was born and raised in the Catholic faith and for us, a rosary is a sacramental, blessed object used in devotion and prayer. If you remove someone’s right to have or wear a rosary, you are taking away their religious freedom.
The most commonly used rosaries have five decades, each with 10 beads, that represent a mystery or event in the life of Jesus. These decades are separated from each other with a single bead. This rosary is also deemed the traditional rosary, often referred to as the Dominican Rosary, but it is not the only type. Other rosaries will have varied numbers of decades or beads in each decade, but do not change the meaning or use of it for those of faith.
Vigil had two rosaries confiscated, and though one of them did have 13 beads in each decade, the other had only the traditional 10. What was the reasoning for confiscating the second rosary if it had no symbolic link to gangs? Margaret Crespo, a Thompson Valley District spokesperson, told Fox News that Vigil had other options. She said that before they confiscated the beads, he had been given two opportunities to remove it or tuck it inside his shirt. However, Vigil told reporters that he wasn’t given the chance to tuck his rosary into his shirt, but received one demand and had his beads removed.
Crespo told Vigil that he didn’t give them any option but to confiscate the rosary because of his refusal to cooperate. But why should confiscation be an option? The second rosary that he wore to school had the traditional 10 beads per decade. So the impression the district is giving is that it is not okay to wear any rosary, and that is wrong. I understand restricting the 13 beaded rosary if there is a gang problem in your area, but to deny students the right to wear their rosaries is disrespectful to their religion and traditions.
I believe that the Thompson Valley school district is unwise in its handling of the situation. According to the district, Vigil has had no prior problems in school and is not affiliated with a gang. Even so, the school is denying him religious freedom based on the number of beads per section on a rosary. One of my main problems with this fact is that as soon as a gang’s symbol is restricted, the group will most likely come up with another symbol. So, to include this religious item of reverence in a list of banned objects is ridiculous because rosaries have been around for hundreds of years as a means of prayer. A modern affiliation should not be allowed to disrespect religious traditions and practices.
This is a remarkably similar situation. Vigil stated that he is not a member of a gang or trying to start a turf war but just wanted the feeling of safety that comes with wearing his rosary. I feel that the school should apologize to Vigil and his family for all of the chaos and confusion, return his rosaries and remove the restriction they have placed on the wearing of rosaries. People of faith deserve the right to the comfort that they are provided by their traditions, prayers and sacramentals.