It’s a National Post two-fer today, I guess, but I simply couldn’t pass this story up. On top of the local element, there are all the elements of a passion play in this story. Think about it — a young and pious martyr suffering through bullying at the hands of heathenistic school officials who are so milquetoast as to think his “Life is Wasted Without Jesus” t-shirt might be deemed offensive by those vile sinners who are simply trying to live life without His glory.
For the past six months, a yellow T-shirt with the slogan “Life is Wasted Without Jesus” has been just another shirt in William Swinimer’s wardrobe.
Lately, the 19-year-old Nova Scotian has worn it every single day since the vice-principal at his high school told him he couldn’t, that it was considered offensive, that it spewed, in his own words, “hate talk.”
Instead of peeling the shirt off like they wanted him to, Mr. Swinimer continued to wear it — straight through a series of in-school suspensions and straight through the five-day at-home suspension he’s currently serving.
The school board issued a statement clarifying that “students may choose to wear clothing that embraces their beliefs. However, it is expected that students will not wear clothing with messages that may offend others’ beliefs, race, religion, culture or lifestyle.”
And therein lies the problem. If the shirt said “My life was wasted without Jesus”, that’s significantly different — it’s an expression of assessment (incorrect though it might be) of his own spiritual life. As it stands, it is an expression of judgment of others, where anyone who isn’t a Christian is a “wasted life”. So Swinimer’s objection that others have worn “Hail Satan” shirts is simply invalid — while such a shirt might be offensive to someone who both believes in Satan and thinks Satan is evil, that reflects only on the person wearing the shirt, NOT on everyone who ISN’T.
Swinimer’s ‘defiance’ is martyrdom, and it’s self-righteous and judgmental martyrdom at that. He is expressing identical sentiments to those folks who say “you’ll go to hell if you don’t repent, and I’ll laugh about it”.
If I have any readers in Chester Basin, I’d provisionally encourage you to get a t-shirt that says “Life is Wasted With Religion” or “With Jesus”, or “Life is Wasted Without the Flying Spaghetti Monster” or some other deity, to test the school’s resolve. Assuming, of course, you can do it without getting beaten up too badly. Any of my proffered t-shirts should be equally rejected — which would put an end to the martyrdom in a hurry, I’d hope. And what’s worse is, they would make you a target for real bullying. Nothing says “I’m the REAL martyr” like getting beaten up for wearing a shirt that pisses off the holier-than-thou crowd.
T-shirts that pass judgment on others are a form of bigotry. While it’s okay to be bigoted against the bigoted, e.g. “homophobes suck”, “end racism”, etc., sentiments that demand that you adhere to a specific religion are anathema to discourse. Especially if they argue for the largest denomination of residents, expressly against the minorities of Hindus, Jews, Muslims, atheists and agnostics, et cetera ad infinitum.
So apparently the kid’s allowed to wear the shirt and any such expressions of faith will not be an issue for the school, no matter how hateful they are to others. The National Post is leaving it up, I’m guessing, to perpetuate the “Christians are OH SO OPPRESSED” meme, contra the facts of the matter.
So, if Chester Basin happens to house a single atheist who can fend for themselves in a fist fight, how about wearing that “Life is wasted with religion” t-shirt to demonstrate exactly who’s being bullied?
To clarify, I’m not saying he shouldn’t be allowed to wear the shirt, or that choice of t-shirts is anything but a free speech issue, though I’d reserve the right to judge people as bigoted assholes for wearing bigoted asshole shirts.
This school, however, is on the hook for Canada’s hate speech laws — which I categorically oppose — if it didn’t at least try to resolve the issue of potentially offending every minority religious view in this situation. I think a decent solution to the problem (though one that compounds the issue, in a way) is setting an explicit dress code that is applied fairly — e.g., no clothing with any text whatsoever — to do an end run around the problem. Or, even, as a subversive way to register a sort of protest against the speech-squelching nature of these hate speech laws.
I understand Ed will have more to say on the freedom of speech aspect of this. It’s just that, in this case, it’s the punching-down that bugs the hell out of me about Swinimer’s sanctimonious martyrdom.