Pro-life shirt equated
'National day' planned for kids to wear message barred by principal
© 2003 WorldNetDaily.com
a school day this spring, thousands of pro-life students across the
country plan to wear a T-shirt that recently was banned by a principal
who equated it with displaying a swastika.
Under the threat of legal action, Neal McCarthy, principal of the
public Abington Jr. High School in Abington, Pa., reversed his
decision to ban an honor student's shirt he deemed to be
The shirt bears the messages, "Abortion is
Homicide. You will not silence my message. You will not mock my God.
You will stop killing my generation. Rock for Life,"
according to the
Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., which challenged the
The producer of the shirt,
Rock for Life, a project of the
American Life League, has planned a
"National Pro-Life T-shirt Day" (order T-shirts there) for April
28. The group says its goal is "to have every pro-life student in
America wear a pro-life T-shirt to school" on that day.
"You have a constitutional right to free speech in your public
school," the group says on its website. "Exercise that right by making
the sanctity of human life the dominant message in your school on
'Like a swastika'
Last November, McCarthy told the student wearing the shirt that he
must either cover it or turn it inside out. Edward White, associate
counsel of the Thomas More center, told WND that the student and his
mother, who brought the complaint, did not want to be identified.
The student decided to turn the shirt inside out, but his mother
raised the matter with McCarthy, who told her the message was
inappropriate for display at school.
McCarthy did not return calls to his office by WND.
According to White, the principal said that the pro-life message
was the equivalent of a swastika being displayed on a shirt, which he
would not allow in school. The mother then contacted the Thomas More
White sent a four-page letter to school officials on Jan. 22,
insisting that the student had a constitutional right to wear his
pro-life clothing and demanding that the school provide written
assurance that he will be permitted to wear the shirt to school.
The legal group contended that the student's speech did not cause
any substantial and material disruptions to the workings of the school
and that there was no legal basis on which to restrict his speech. It
also stated that the mother and son would have the option of seeking
relief in federal court if the school did not reverse its decision by
"Too often public school officials forget that the First Amendment
protects student pro-life messages," White said. "We are pleased that
the school has quickly corrected its mistake and has acknowledged our
client's First Amendment right to wear the pro-life T-shirt to
'Where can I get one?'
White said a school might have a legitimate objection if a T-shirt
caused a significant disruption. He notes there have been instances in
which a Confederate flag shirt led to ongoing fist fights. But in the
many cases of pro-life T-shirts he has handled, he is not aware of any
that have caused a disruption. The complaint often has originated with
an administrator who happens to come across it after the student has
been wearing the shirt to school for some time.
Though some complaints come from students, most are tolerant, he
"You're going to have kids who say, 'Great, where can I get one?'"
said White. "Others will disagree, but even the ones who disagree will
acknowledge the right to wear the shirt – 'I may not like his message,
but I want the same right to wear my message.'"
Rock for Life assistant director Sara McKalips told WND that she
did not consider the Abington Jr. High School student's T-shirt,
produced by her group, to be provocative.
"A swastika is a symbol of hate and discrimination," she said, "and
this T-shirt is sharing a message of truth and life."
White said he finds pro-life kids often are singled out by
administrators, while kids wearing shirts displaying messages from
shock rockers such as Marilyn Manson, or Playboy bunny T-shirts,
"usually get a pass."
White said his group was contacted last year by about 25 or 30
families who had a student confronted by school officials for a
pro-life T-shirt. The students usually are "good kids," he said, such
as the honor student at Abington Jr. High.
"We've always had success once we explain the student's
constitutional rights," said White.
Some parents don't want to pursue the case because the student is
afraid of a backlash.
"But when students are supported by the parents, we go forward,"
White said. "We've had parents who were pro-choice stand behind their
Letter in hand
Rock for Life's McKalips said she expects opposition to the
"National Pro-life T-Shirt Day," which her group plans to make an
annual event. The organization will make available to the students a
letter produced by the Thomas More Law Center that outlines their
First Amendment rights.
She said her group has received a good response from students and
from schools, mostly Catholic, that want to participate in the event.
Rock for Life's 90 local chapters throughout the country are
contacting public schools, she said, and encouraging the principals to
support the students who participate.
Many members of the Rock for Life chapters volunteer at local
Crisis Pregnancy Clinics, she added.
Brian Burch, a spokesman for Thomas More, said he thinks opposition
to the pro-life T-shirt day will be minimal.
"I would hope that schools are aware that the pro-life message is
protected by the First Amendment just like any other message," he
said. "These shirts are worn by thousands of kids, and, for the most
part, I don't think people have a problem.