Cross Purposes

Wearing the Christian symbol can be a problem in places like Saudi Arabia and Pennsylvania

Brenda Nichol, a teacher's aide in southwestern Pennsylvania, was suspended for a year without pay for wearing a cross necklace to work. She "believes to remove or hide that cross beneath her clothing is an act of denying Christ as her Lord and Savior, which she cannot do without violating her religious convictions," says her American Center for Law and Justice lawyer. But an 1895 Pennsylvania law specifically prohibits teachers from wearing religious symbols at work. Last week a U.S. district judge ruled that Nichol could return to work while the court considers permanently overturning the suspension.

Christians aren't permitted to wear crosses in Saudi Arabia, either, so when retired Army captain Todd M. Bair (sadly killed in recent terrorist bombings) was working in the country as a contractor, he turned to an ancient solution. He asked a local jeweler to make three gold "Ichthus" fish necklaces. When he went back to the store, Bair's mother told The News Chief of Winter Haven, Florida, the owner asked about the fish.

"It's just something special between me and my boys," he replied. Special indeed: Second-century Christians used the fish symbol to avoid persecution when identifying themselves and places of worship. The jeweler reportedly made more fish and quickly sold out. If it helps evade the repressive Saudi regime, maybe it would work in Pennsylvania.

Related Elsewhere

Articles referenced above include:

Suspended teacher's aide sues employer over wearing cross on necklaceThe Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh (May 7, 2003)
Teacher's aide takes agency to court over cross necklace—The Associated Press (May 7, 2003)
Former LW resident among Saudi fatalitiesThe News Chief, Winter Haven, Florida (May 15, 2003)
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