The Jesus T-shirt

A student at Forest Heights Community School in Chester Basin, Lunenburg County, has been suspended for wearing a T-shirt that says: “Life is wasted without Jesus.” (See story here.)

Asking the student to remove the shirt did not work and William Swinimer has defiantly refused to comply with the request to not wear it to school. (See story here.)

The Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party today called on Education Minister Ramona Jennex to intervene and overturn the decision of the South Shore School Board to suspend the student. To support their argument, the Tories cite Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states:

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
But the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are not absolute and this is an important factor in this case. Section 1 of the Charter establishes that there are limits.
1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

The term “reasonable limits” is the crux of the debate. Some have argued that this T-shirt’s message is possibly hate speech or, at the very least, is disrespectful of other religions and should be curtailed. This is not merely a declaration of faith by a Christian, it is a condemnation of non-Christians.

As my old constitutional law professor used to say in class: “The right to swing one’s fist ends at another person’s face.”

I can’t help but wonder whether we would be having this same debate if a student wore a T-shirt to school that read: “Life is wasted without Allah.”

I’m not a devotee of any religion, but I support religious freedoms for those of every faith. This T-shirt crosses the line, though, and I do not condone intolerance of other religions.

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