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Schools treat rosaries as gang symbols

Most of us know that rosaries aren’t intended to be worn as jewelry — but that hasn’t stopped countless young people (and a lot of adults) from adopting them as necklaces. They’re even being marketed that way by Dolce & Gabbana (see above). 

And now, that’s causing problems:

School districts in New York and Texas are cracking down on students who wear religious jewelry.


Raymond Hosier, a student at Oneida Middle School in New York, said he the principal told him to remove his rosary beads or he would be suspended. He didn’t – and he was.

“I think it’s not right to kick me out of school for wearing rosary beads,” Hosier told WXXA. “They’re in honor of my brother and uncle and that’s how it’s gonna stay.”

Hosier’s brother was killed by a car in 2005 and his uncle died of cancer several weeks ago.

The school district told WXXA the bead ban is based on concerns that the beads might be gang related.

Hosier denied being in a gang and his mother said he does well in school.

“He’s got rights as a citizen,” Chantal Hosier told WXXA. “He’s got the right to demonstrate his religion.”


A spokeswoman for the school said they can’t comment on cases involving suspended students – but the family hopes the school will have a change of heart.

Meanwhile, an eighth grader in Texas City, TX, found himself in a similar situation. A resource officer at Blocker Middle School confiscated a necklace that resembled rosary beads and a cross.

Christian Thompson told KENS the necklace was in memory of a friend who was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

“It helps me remember him and makes me feel safe,” Thompson told KENS. “I think it’s not fair that they won’t let me wear it.”

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posted May 21, 2010 at 7:29 am

They wear the rosary in honor of deceased loved ones. Ok. I wonder if they ever pray the rosary?

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Susan in Illinois

posted May 21, 2010 at 8:22 am

I was raised to believe it is sacreligious to wear a rosary as a neckless. Is it?

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Civitas Occiduus

posted May 21, 2010 at 9:28 am

Just speaking as a teacher in an inner city Catholic school, we saw a random uptick in this very thing earlier this year among a number of students that we had already suspected of gang involvement. Not one of them, when questioned, knew what the Rosary was or what the prayers were that are associated with it — or at least they claimed ignorance. And not one of them was Catholic.
They all had stories for why they should be allowed to wear them; the most interesting one came from a Muslim student who accused us of religious discrimination.
Thankfully, our school uniform bans necklaces of any kind for boys and “showy necklaces” for girls, so we were able to skirt all of the other issues discipline-wise and just focus on the dress code violation. Then our religion department doubled-down in their teaching of traditional Catholic practices, including the Rosary, so good came of it.
The sad fact is that this article is correct. Gangs, like other examples of evil, co-opt good things — Rosaries, whistling, young people, sports hats, handshakes — and twist them into demented reflections of themselves. Beyond the sacriledge, which is profane enough, the Rosary beads have become yet one more tool in the hands of those who seek to do evil. One of those students later expelled once we confirmed gang involvement, stared down our principal as he said, “These [indicating the beads] stand for death.” His parents assured us that no one in the family had died in the last several years.

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posted May 21, 2010 at 10:47 am

Civitas Occiduus has a point. BTW Catholics are not the only ones with “prayer beads.” Buddhists and Muslims also use prayer beads. And there are some neo-pagan sites that encourage making “prayer” jewelry.
If they are truly a rosary, and one that has meaning to the person – like any other valuable – put it away in your pocket unless you are using it for prayer.
I am another that was brought up being told that to wear a rosary like a necklace was disrespectful.
Then years later found that a couple religious orders wear one around the neck, and in the past, it was sometimes a practice of devotion, and maybe a little bit of fashion statement too.
In a school environment, I’d treat it like we did in the military; NOT VISIBLE. Wear it, but not visible, “hanging out.”

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Bmore Teacher

posted May 21, 2010 at 11:00 am

I also work at an inner city high school. Personally, as a Catholic, I am deeply offended when students wear rosaries as necklaces (even if it is to remember a fallen friend). What I have seen is that most of the students who wear rosaries are gang members. The students who wear them are not Catholic and know nothing about the rosary. I’ve heard that many of the gang members get them in prison. I’ve also heard that they’re a problem in prison because the inmates file the points into weapons. It’s sad that people use a religous symbol in such a way. There are too many people that grow up without faith and turn to the streets to worship money, drugs, sex and violence and feel no remorse for desecrating a sacred symbol.

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posted May 21, 2010 at 11:03 am

I once listend to an audio tape (don’t remember the name of it, think I bought it off ‘Meet the Faith’) where Bishop Sheen talked about the devil. One of the things he talked about is that we (society) profane what we no longer revere. One example of course was the cross, and talked about how one can easily find a cross or two at garage sales. He also mentioned the maxicoat (for those under 40, it was the floor lentht winter coat that became a rage) that came into vogue after nuns gave up wearing the holy habit.
I’ve often thought about that, especially evertime at Mass when the Euchrist, the body of Christ, is elevated, and the priest says, “This is my body…”.
Does “This is my body” sound familiar anyone? If not,just ask a “pro choice” women why she favors abortion. If that’s not the work of satan, nothing is!
As for the rosary, I too was told never to wear it. In CA, and it’s the only state where I see this, it’s VERY common to see rosary beads around car mirrors; not sure how that trend got started, but it’s very common.

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posted May 21, 2010 at 11:13 am

many people wear rosaries where i live in Spain. i saw a woman about 50 years old wearing one at Mass the other day.

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Baron Korf

posted May 21, 2010 at 11:55 am

I wear my rosary on occasion, under my shirt. Usually when I need a boost of virtue or protection. I’ve found nothing against it beyond some groups of people saying it’s just not done, or it is disrespectful.
The fact that they have become a fashion symbol is sad, but expected. If you notice, alien religions have their symbols snatched up and turned into novelties all the times. This just shows that Catholicism has become alien to our society.

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posted May 21, 2010 at 1:10 pm

to Klaire, regarding rosaries around rear view mirrors. My Filipina girlfriend has one around her rearview mirror in her car. Just so you know, the rosary is there because she says a prayer before she starts the car and touches the rosary.
It is a Filipino thing but it could also be among other faithful Hispanics.
Next time, see if you can ask the owner of the car. Maybe they can tell you why they do it.

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posted May 21, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Thanks “C”, that makes sense now that I think about it. Both the Hispanic and Filipino populations are big in the S CA area. The cars I see them on appear to be “family type” cars, such as minivans, sedans, as opposed to “gang big tire type cars with high volume heavy metal.”
I think you are probably correct, and even more so, these people actually pray the rosary. Thanks.

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posted May 21, 2010 at 1:31 pm

To me, the phrase “wearing a rosary” always brings up the mental picture of a nun, in full habit, with one of those 15-decade rosaries around her waist, with the end hanging down one hip, while the other hip would have the huge jangly mass of keys, on one of those janitor-style spring-loaded retractable key chains. “Tools of the trade” so to speak.
(I guess I’m showing my age, eh?)

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posted May 21, 2010 at 1:55 pm

People of all ages wear Christian crosses all the time…some for religious reasons, some for fashion statements. I’ve also seen the Star of David worn, some for fashion (fewer than crosses however)and some for religious reasons. So the wearing of rosaries is, IMO the same as wearing other religious symbols. Right or wrong in the eyes of some folks, it is probably going to continue to happen.
As for gang symbols? Could depend on the neighborhood,I guess.

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posted May 21, 2010 at 1:58 pm

how about a nation wear your rosary day
mothers fathers teachers lawyers
EVERYBODY wear your Rosary
on say AUG 15th
how about it?
calling all blogs and Catholic websites lets start

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posted May 21, 2010 at 2:42 pm

In prisons, convicted criminals are allowed to wear one religious sign. Many choose to wear a rosary. As no one can PRAY on a rosary hung around the neck, it is pretty meaningless. Here in NYC many toilet-mouthed hip-hoppers routinely wear rosaries, as many of them wore them in prison.
Most unfortunately, the “prison chic” of ads, of hip-hop & “gangsta rap” performers, have affected the modern image of the rosary. The “goths” wear them with the crucifix ripped off. The schools have a very sad point. The student who IS a practicing Catholic should WEAR a crucifix, religious medal, scapular, or all three, and CARRY the rosary in his or her hand or pocket, where it can be used to count prayers.

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posted May 21, 2010 at 3:29 pm

In the Chicago area, the Star of David is sometimes used as a gang symbol, and has been forbidden at some schools as a result. I think there was some litigation about it in a suburban school.

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oh really

posted May 21, 2010 at 3:31 pm

sorry Kathlen –
I must differ
one can
pray the rosary while wearing it
and one can
pray the rosary even if one doesn’t have one
a cruxifix helps and does all ten fingers
but really
And Mary can still prevail even if someone rips off the Crucifix
The Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit call everyone to them and Mary prays for ALL OF US.
and you can be sure, if youngsters were carring the Rosary in their pockets they would have them taken away for another reason

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posted May 21, 2010 at 3:55 pm

1. I agree, the rosary is not a necklace or fashion statement, but young folks will always push limits, this is not a huge Church problem. Gang issues are very real, tho.
2. Maybe the people could wear the rosary inside of their clothing, in private, so to speak
3. So, if a nun in her habit should walk into these schools (you know, the nuns who wear the rosary at their waist as part of their habits) will her rosary be confiscated? A gang sign?
4. Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion. These freedoms are part of what makes America special, different from every other country. Very Catholic/catholic practices.

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Civitas Occiduus

posted May 21, 2010 at 5:33 pm

To your 3rd point: I understand that you are trying to make a slippery slope argument, especially in light of your fourth point, but context is everything. A Rosary on the waist of a habited nun is not the same thing as a Rosary around the neck of 17-year old who may or may not be a gang member.
Obviously not everyone that wears a Rosary is a gang member and school authorities need to be aware of the communities they serve. I grew up in a suburban Florida town and there were no gangs in my high school (no one wore the Rosary around their necks either, but I don’t think the immediate conclusion would have been gang involvement). I now teach in an inner city school in Newark, NJ. A Rosary around the neck can send only a few very specific messages, and in 2010, one of those messages is gang involvement.
Here’s another (quick) example: Anyone remember the Seattle Super Sonics? They’re that team that had Sean Kemp back in the ’90s? Yeah, they don’t exist anymore (unless you count their name change and relocation to Oklahoma), but their colors were Green and Yellow. And even though most of my current students were in diapers the last time that the great Sean Kemp dunked a ball in Seattle, a cadre of them revived the hats a few months back.
My school was left with two plausible conclusions: either a wave of nostalgia for 90s basketball had swept the students, or a new way to show gang colors emerged. Should everyone who ever wears a Seattle Supersonics cap in Newark, NJ be arrested/suspended/detained? The answer to that question depends on the context of where the cap is being worn (and whether, I suppose, you really dislike Seattle fans).
The Rosary is the same way. Obviously not every Rosary worn everywhere should be confiscated. As Pagansister indicated, “it depends on the neighborhood…” It depends on the context.

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posted May 21, 2010 at 6:33 pm

as a convert… i must add something here.
i didnt want to be Catholic. i didnt want to be Christian. i was convinced that Christianity was at best stupid and at worst actively part of the evil in the world. what changed my mind? The Rosary, and some good examples.
i made “pagan rosaries” (with Goddess symbols or pentacles)and every now and then made Catholic Rosaries.. usually for costume and goth and etc. and then i received in a shipment of amber beads what i had been told were “broken necklaces” that i could scavenge the beads from. they were not, they were Rosaries! but what the ??? that is a man’s face?
They turned out to be blessed Rosaries from Pope John Paul II trip to Poland. and i couldnt bear to rip them apart for beads, so i put them out for sale, being diligent that they went to practicing Catholics.
i later learned to make knotted cord rosaries from rosaryarmy dot com… for a friend who was battling cancer and wanted one she could take through her MRI… May God grant her peace.
She was my sponsor , even though she was too sick to leave the hospital. her sister stood for me at RCIA.
so even those who get involved for the “wrong reasons” may be saved through Grace. “Let me but put the rosary around the neck of a sinner, and they shall not escape me”

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posted May 21, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Amazing story Kirsten…thanks!

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Adrian Vincent Yañez

posted May 21, 2010 at 10:09 pm

I saw the interview with this child and his mothers and it was clear to me that they were both ignorant of Catholic practice regarding the rosary. I will continue to question this young boys veracity until he demonstrates that he can recite all 20 mysteries of the rosary.
I have corrected a number of non catholic students about wearing the rosary around their neck. It was an opportunity to tell them about the rosary and its importance as one of the greatest prayers of the Church.
Unfortunately, the principle displayed ignorance of the Rosary and thus was unable to make a teaching moment for his boy.

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posted May 21, 2010 at 10:53 pm

oh really (et al),
I’m strongly inclined to agree with Kathleen.
I once decided to try wearing a Rosary myself. I thought it a more distinctly Catholic expression of faith in God, as opposed to merely a cross, but also assumed I might pray it too. I don’t wear one anymore because I had a few problems.
First, I didn’t want to wear a “normal” Rosary with beads. Military dog tags on a chain were cold and caught on tiny hairs. I suspected that beads on a string or chain would present similar problems.
Wearing a knotted string Rosary didn’t work very well either. I tried. It didn’t catch on hairs, but if I had to turn my head for whatever reason, the “beads” still tended to want to chafe my neck.
Lastly, wearing this thing actually discouraged prayer. I couldn’t put it on or take it off quickly and easily, nor could I discern any workable way to pray it while wearing it without being a contortionist.
BTW, I tried hanging a Rosary on my rearview too. I had the same problems with praying it. There was the distinct problem of praying it with one hand suspended in the air….
Ultimately then, Kathleen’s suggestion to keep it in your pocket strikes me as the best option. When you have time to pray it, pull it out. Otherwise, avoid making a “fashion statement”.

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Robert Hartley

posted May 22, 2010 at 12:18 am

The rosary was not given to us to wear with the exception of consecrated persons (nuns habits usually included rosary beads). The Brown Scapular was given to us by Our Lady via St. Simon Stock to wear as a Marian devotion. When I received First Communion in the second grade, we were given a Brown Scapular and enrolled in the Confraternity of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. The Scapular is a sacramental and a private devotion (not worn as jewelry but around the neck under normal clothing). I believe it is sinful to not use a religious object in the way it was meant to be used.

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posted May 22, 2010 at 1:18 am

The rosary is not a piece of jewelry. It is a weapon. I’m glad that this child has an attachment to the rosary of our Blessed Mother and I hope that someone educates him as to what it really is and how powerful it really is. Perhaps some good priest in his diocese can help him. Thank you Father for our wonderful Mother, her holy rosary and her scapular.

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Timmy Baugh

posted May 22, 2010 at 1:26 am

oh, robert believes it’s a sin to not use a religious object in the way it was meant to be used. SOMEBODY HAVE A NEW CATECHISM PRINTED! rosaries are beautiful, they are symbolic, they are heavenly. they make a dark room light and echo the words “do whatever He tells you” through the ages. KIDS- wear them, hang them up, draw doodles of them, give them out, show them in public, and most of all, pray them!!! the rosary will save this world, or comfort it while it crumbles.
in the bookstore where i own a Christian coffeeshop i have had so many opportunities to teach the rosary to people who came to purchase them, knowing no more about them, than that they look cool as a necklace. if it wasn’t hip to where them, they would not have come to know the true beauty of the rosary.

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Tony Layne

posted May 22, 2010 at 4:04 am

Maybe, whenever we see someone wearing the rosary as “bling”, we should take time to instruct them in its meaning and use. I agree, it’s a sacramental, set aside for the sacred purposes of prayer and contemplation. But seeing it used as jewelry should act on us as an opportunity for evangelization, not simply remonstration.

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posted May 22, 2010 at 6:13 am

This is why I buy them from the local Goodwill and Salvation Army stores. I put them in the basket outside our Adoration Chapel so people can take them. One store now even collects them and saves them for me.

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posted May 22, 2010 at 8:28 am

I thought being this is such an interesting discussion, I would see what the apologist at Catholic Answers had to say about it:
Q: Can a rosary be worn as a piece of jewelry?
A: “Sacred objects, set aside for divine worship by dedication or blessing, are to be treated with reverence. They are not to be made over to secular or inappropriate use, even though they may belong to private persons” (CIC 1171).
Essentially, sacramentals such as rosaries must be treated with respect, particularly if they have been blessed. Reverence is the attitude of awe or respect that is most often given to sacred things. By its very definition, it is an interior disposition that usually cannot be determined by onlookers by appearances alone. A person may be wearing a rosary as a statement of faith, to keep it handy for praying throughout the day, or to avoid losing it. Those reasons would be indicative of reverence and would not interfere with the canon’s directive that sacramentals must be treated reverently.
Ordinarily speaking, then, if someone is spotted wearing a rosary, he should be charitably presumed to be wearing it for just reasons. Only if the rosary is being put to an objectively sordid use (e.g., a rock star is using it as a prop in a music video, obscenely contrasting the symbolic purity of the rosary with the immodest or immoral actions of the performers) can we be sure that the rosary is being treated irreverently.
All said, God can certainly, and often does bring good out of sin, as some in this thread have beautifully shown us. Maybe the next time we see a punker with a rosary around his or her neck, we should offer to “pray one with them!”

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posted May 22, 2010 at 9:20 am

Obvious manipulation. Consider why armed insurgents may choose to hide in mosques, or why Nazi soldiers used bell towers in WWII as sniper nests. They did so because they knew the advantage of reverence afforded these places by the faithful. Redefining an opponents premises and using it against them is a clever but somewhat adolescent trick. Any teacher or policeman will by now be nodding and rolling their eyes…
Likewise, invoking the secular notion of “rights” as mentioned in the article above. It’s junior’s “right as a citizen” to wear his beads “in memory” of his beloved passed relatives. Again an appeal to the absolute and untouchable (i.e. sacred) that no earthly authority can violate.
Doubt these kids even know how to say one Hail Mary.

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posted May 23, 2010 at 8:52 pm

Have encountered some interesting things with regard to the rosary and other Catholic symbols.
I have carried the rosary given me by my godfather some 50 years ago. It is in a pouch in my left pocket. In passing through metal detectors, my rosary has been allowed and sometime not allowed to pass.
As for other religious items, I was not allowed to wear a medal of Our Lady of Guadalupe during an outpatient operation by a Muslem doctor, but it was okay for a similar operation in the same facility by a Buddhist doctor (where I live, it has become difficult to find American or Christian doctors).
I watched one day at the entrance of a court building, a man in clothing of an Asian religion was allowed to carry a “ceremonial dagger,” about 8 inches long, deemed part of his religion into the building. A teenager immediately behind him was ordered to take off a Miraculous Medal, about an inch in diameter, and return it to his car before being admitted to the building; one of the guards called the medal a “dangerous weapon.”

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Susan in Illinois

posted May 24, 2010 at 8:54 am

This has been a great conversation. Thank you to everyone with the wonderful, godly recounts of the Grace of God. Maybe our priests, pastors, and deacons can reinforce the sacredness of the rosary, and why it should be valued, and prayed, not a fashion statement. Thank you to the faithful who remain strong in their Catholic Christian values.

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Katie Angel

posted May 28, 2010 at 10:14 am

I have a number of friends from Spain and the Latin American countries who routinely wear a rosary around their necks. Not a one of them has ever had a problem praying the rosary that way and they consider the wearing of it to be a form of prayer and reverence. I admit, I was startled when I first saw it and did questions the appropriateness of wearing a rosary as a necklace but after talking to them, I realized it is part of their culture and I have no business passing judgement.

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posted June 12, 2010 at 8:41 pm

тема не раскрыта.. может есть ещё информация по этому поводу?

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posted June 20, 2010 at 7:16 am

Rosary Beads are intended for prayer and adoration. They are not to be used for any other purpose. If the boy is serious about his uncle or brother, they have colored ribbons he could wear to show his grief and respect. And, where are his “Catholic” parents????? Are they also wearing their rosary beads?
PS: I have been through several operations, and never had to wear my religious medals while in surgery. God is with me, with or without my jewelry. A prayer before and after will suffice. If it is God’s will to protect me, so be it, if not, there is a reason for everything in our lives.
If one indulges and seeks through supplication of the Blessed Mother, the operating room doors will not close out Her guidance. A good Catholic, will wear Her picture on his or her heart. Yes, the medal is a wonderful thing to wear, and a wonderful evangelizing tool. But saying a prayer before surgery, in honor of the Blessed Mother speaks volumes. All is said in love.

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