A handful of school students in Florida were sent home this week for wearing t-shirts with the words "Islam is of the Devil" printed on the back in red and refusing to change out of them or cover the message.
The controversy started after members of a local church, the Dove World Outreach Center, which printed the shirts, showed up for the first day of school wearing the controversial t-shirts, which officials said violated a ban on clothing that may offend or distract other students and "disrupt the learning process."
" Students have a right of free speech, and we have allowed students to come to school wearing clothes with messages "
Tom Wittmer -- school district staff attorney
"Students have a right of free speech, and we have allowed students to come to school wearing clothes with messages," school district staff attorney Tom Wittmer told Florida's the Gainesville Sun newspaper, adding "but this message is a divisive message that is likely to offend students."
"The next kid might show up with a shirt saying 'Christianity is of the Devil,'" Wittmer said, which Dove church members said they would not like but said every student has the right to do as they please.
Dove's Senior pastor, Terry Jones, said he believed spreading the church's message was more important than education and told the paper no local company "had the guts" to print the shirts, forcing him to go online to have them made.
"People can be saved"
" The people are people. They can be saved like anyone else "
High school student says of Muslims
Gainesville High student, 15-year-old Emily Sapp, was sent home after she refused to change her clothes.
Sapp said she wore the shirt to promote her Christian beliefs, when asked about the offensive statement Sapp said it was aimed at the religion and not its members.
"The people are fine," the paper quoted her as saying. "The people are people. They can be saved like anyone else."
The front of the controversial shirts are emblazoned with "Jesus answered I am the way and the truth and the life; no one goes to the Father except through me," coupled with "I stand in trust with Dove Outreach Center."
The anti-Islam message "Islam is of the Devil" is written on the back in bold red letters.
For the president of the Muslim Association of North Central Florida, Saeed R. Khan, the offensive shirts should not be accepted "particularly in a school setting where you are trying to create an atmosphere where people are supposed to respect each other and live with each other, where we have people of every ethnicity and every religion."