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May 08 2012

Jesus t-shirt kid pulled from school by dad til they stop discussing being respectful

The story I mentioned yesterday has another twist. But first, I need to set a few things straight.

Everything about William Swinimer’s “defiant” wearing of the t-shirt that calls non-Christian lives “wasted” smacks of martyrdom to me. In a very small township like Chester Basin, in a school where most of the population is Christian and of the less than tolerant kind, Swinimer’s exhortations that he’s doing it to stand up to the bullies smacks not only of hyperbole but of outright fabrication. My first instinct when I read this story was not to once again assign blame for the situation on the ridiculous hate speech laws Canada has to suffer (which, yes, this case does have that fatal flaw at its core), but rather to lament that the school board completely mishandled this case and let it spiral out of control, taking action at the least-actionable offense to their, and all of our, detriment. This led to some misunderstandings about my feelings in comments and on Facebook, but they’ve evidently since been cleared up.

There’s a lot more to the story than the National Post discussed, though. For instance, via CBC, apparently William’s father John pulled him out of classes on the same day he was supposed to return from his suspension, wearing the probably rank t-shirt and all, when all students were scheduled to be able to participate in voluntary sessions on how to discuss religion without being disrespectful of others. Evidently William could have opted out, but his father opted him right the hell out of school altogether.

But John Swinimer said he wants Forest Heights Community School in Chester Basin, Lunenburg County, to only teach the basic courses, leaving religion out of it.

“He will not attend this school unless they are having reading, writing and arithmetic — good old-fashioned academics,” he said, waving a New Testament bible. “When they’re having forums, when they’re having other extra-curricular activity, he will not attend that school.”

Emphasis mine.

What’s more, the CBC reports that the t-shirt itself isn’t really what ultimately pretty much wrecked any semblance of academia at the school while this religiously-inspired three-ring circus is running its course.

Students said William Swinimer has been preaching and making them feel uncomfortable, and the shirt was the last straw so they complained.

“He’s told kids they’ll burn in hell if they don’t confess themselves to Jesus,” student Riley Gibb-Smith said.

Katelyn Hiltz, student council vice-president, agreed the controversy didn’t begin with the T-shirt.

“It started with him preaching his religion to kids and then telling them to go to hell. A lot of kids don’t want to deal with this anymore,” she said.

This wasn’t just a case of trying to abridge his right to free speech by telling him to stop wearing a shirt (for weeks on end). If it was just about the t-shirt, the school board wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. What was actually happening was the repeated disruption of academics while William turned the school into his own personal witnessing platform, to everyone’s detriment.

The shirt was just the least-actionable of his disruptive influences, and the school administration incorrectly handled his religious bullying by trying to nail him on something that they could never win on. They did not deal with the situation early on. But frankly, as long as his father’s willing to put proselytization over academics, William’s honestly the only one who will suffer from his absence from the school.

16 comments

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  1. 1
    Tracey

    I’m sad Canada is now infected by the “how dare you stop me from abusing you–why, you’re PERSECUTING me” Christians.

  2. 2
    BecomingJulie

    I wonder if the rest of the school’s average grades are going up slightly while this bell-end is excluded?

  3. 3
    Crommunist

    I hope the opposite from BecomingJulie. I hope Swinimer has exemplary grades and is otherwise a model student who gets to go to the faith-annihilating university of his choice. I think he’ll make an excellent atheist activist some day.

  4. 4
    Somerville

    Cromunist, may your words fall upon the ears of the questioning. I hope that the truths which you lay out so well will cause even more to question the ‘axioms’ they have been taught during childhood.

  5. 5
    den1s

    To me, this is not the kid’s fault at all. Remember the movie Carrie? Look at the father’s actions and reactions so far; waving the bible and yelling damnation and hellfire condemnations on the schooling they are giving this over aged student. This kid, whom I suspect has had a dubious and harsh religious upbringing, is in trouble but likely won’t be rescued from his home situation. Sad, and not over.

  6. 6
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Den1s. The “kid” in question is 19. He’s more than old enough to take responsibility for his own actions and opinions.

    Can we please stop infantilizing the young?

  7. 7
    Crommunist

    He’s actually 17. Not that it makes a huge difference, but yeah he knows what he was doing. Doesn’t mean he didn’t have poison poured in his ear (Claudius style) by his wackaloon dad for the past 17 years of his life. Get him separated from daddy for a while, his perspective will probably change.

  8. 8
    Jason Thibeault

    Huh. Crommunist, where’d you get the 17 number? I’ve seen 19 on a few of the linked sources.

  9. 9
    coffeehound

    wait, did I get that right? It was o.k. when this kid was pushing his bilge on on everyone else, but now that they they actually want to talk about it his jackass dad thinks they should focus on academics and leave religion out of the class?!
    My brain’s leaking out of my ear, now, geez!

  10. 10
    Smedley Fernhoop

    Ah ha, I knew there had to be more to this story than just the t-shirt. Annoying assho… erm, I mean, misguided fools who believe foisting their delusions on others is a valid life choice rarely stop at wearing a symbol or slogan.

    The problem IMO is that the other students are a captive audience to this young man’s judgmental, irritating message. If he were on a street corner preaching his nonsense people could tune him out or walk away; not so in school, where they’d have to skip or cut classes to avoid his bullshit. Regardless of his religious beliefs — that he is absolutely entitled to have — his right to express himself ends when he starts harassing others.

  11. 11
    'Tis Himself

    It does appear that if the school had told William to proselytize on his own time and suspended him if he continued to push Jesus on other students, they’d have a leg to stand on. Probably Daddy would have pulled Willie from school and whined about persecution, but most people would have agreed with the school board.

  12. 12
    Carlie

    It was o.k. when this kid was pushing his bilge on on everyone else, but now that they they actually want to talk about it his jackass dad thinks they should focus on academics and leave religion out of the class?!

    Yeah, that should have been the school’s immediate response: “We’ll be happy to leave religion out of the classroom as soon as he does”

  13. 13
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    This makes me really want to try getting PZ a copy of The Armageddon Factor before he comes to Imagine No Religion.

    Far too many people on the other side of the 49th think that Canada is more sane when it comes to religion, Christianity in particular. In reality, we just do a better job of keeping it under wraps.

  14. 14
    otrame

    Setár, I would settle for keeping it under wraps at this point, frankly.

  15. 15
    Erin

    Chances are, he won’t be going to his “faith-annihilating university of his choice.” With the way he and his father behave, there’s a pretty good chance he’ll be attending Crandall University formally known as United Baptist Bible Training School (1949), Atlantic Baptist College(1970), and Atlantic Baptist University(1996).

  16. 16
    Jason Thibeault

    That is, sadly, extraordinarily likely, Erin. This kid is in for life unless he has a self-inspired epiphany at his odious treatment of his fellow man.

  1. 17
    Manufacturing a martyr | Crommunist

    […] Apparently the kid is from a whole family of assholes, so I retract a good portion of my grudging […]

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