University orders student to remove cross necklace, fearing it will offend other students

University orders student to remove cross necklace, fearing it will offend other students
Audrey Jarvis: Her cross to bear.
Audrey Jarvis: Her cross to bear.

Sonoma State University strives to create a campus climate in which the desire to build trust among people is widely shared, and opportunities for enhancing diversity and a sense of community are encouraged and supported. We stand committed to fostering and sustaining a pluralistic, inclusive environment that empowers all members of the campus community to achieve their highest potential without fear of prejudice or discrimination.

We encourage every member of our university community to embrace the underlying values of this vision, and to demonstrate a strong commitment to supporting, retaining, and attracting students, faculty, and staff who reflect the diversity of our larger society.

— From the “Diversity” page of the website of Sonoma State University

Maybe the problem with 19-year-old Audrey Jarvis, a liberal arts major at this northern California university, is that her religious beliefs just aren’t diverse enough. That might explain why a supervisor ordered Jarvis to remove a cross she wore on a chain around her neck.

The school’s administration seems ready to put the troubling incident behind it and even to apologize, a fact which may or may not be related to Jarvis’s having hired an attorney.

Fox News’s Todd Starnes reports that the Jarvis was working at a student orientation fair for incoming freshmen on June 27 when the supervisor took her aside and patiently explained that other students might find her religious jewelry “offensive.”

Jarvis, who describes herself as a devout Catholic, said that her “initial reaction was one of complete shock. I was thrown for a loop.” She further told Fox News:

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. I was very hurt and felt as if the university’s mission statement — which includes tolerance and inclusivity to all — was violated.

After a second aside, during which the supervisor gave her the option of concealing the cross under her clothing or removing it altogether, Jarvis decided to seek legal counsel.

Hiram Sasser, her attorney, said, “It’s amazing in this day of diversity and tolerance on university campuses that a university official would engage in this type of obvious religious discrimination.”

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.

He noted that the law is clear on the matter: “State 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.”

Susan Kashack, a spokeswoman for the university, called the supervisor’s behavior “absolutely inappropriate and said Sonoma State President Ruben Arminana was “angered” by the incident.

Kashack added that administrators have spoken with the supervisor but won’t reveal the contents of their conversation or whether he was disciplined.

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Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy has written for The Blaze, HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.

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