Fla. students' shirts: 'Islam is of the Devil'

The t-shirts were printed by a local church which says its message more important than education (Courtesy of Gainesville Sun)
The t-shirts were printed by a local church which says its message more important than education (Courtesy of Gainesville Sun)

Gainesville, FLORIDA

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."


Views: 74

Comment by Dave G on August 26, 2009 at 1:24pm
While I agree that the church has the right to print the shirts, and people to wear them, if the school's rule on 'no disruptive clothing' is evenly enforced, I'd side with the school. It looks to me to be another attempt to co-opt schools into the religious sphere.
Comment by Dave G on August 26, 2009 at 2:44pm
Natalie, free speech is not a hate crime. The thing about free speech is that even offensive speech is protected.

Speech designed to incite violence can be restricted under incitement to riot laws and the like, but just saying something offensive is protected. If the shirts said 'Kill all Muslims for God', then that could fall under incitement laws.

Just because what someone is saying is hateful, that does not mean that you are allowed to silence them. That is no different than Christians declaring that atheists should not be allowed to have bus ads, because they find the idea of not believing in a god offensive and hateful. It is censorship, and it is ugly.
Comment by Serotonin Wraith on August 26, 2009 at 3:12pm
If they keep bringing it up instead of learning, then the school is not the place for it. But otherwise, I think it should be allowed. This means of course that atheists could wear 'think atheist' bracelets or t-shirts, Muslims could have their messages, Hindus could have theirs, etc.

Anyone wearing the above t-shirt is only giving out the message 'Hi, I believe in an invisible dragon, and I think he made a fairy tale to trick people out of following my tale for which there is just as much proof, but mine is real, honest!' to me. Not offensive at all.
Comment by Gaytor on August 26, 2009 at 3:42pm
Anyone notice Saeed Kahn says that the shirts should not be accepted, then says "particularly in school" I'm reaching a bit because it's not a direct quote, but I hope that he is caught up in the conversation and really don't mean that if I wear that shirt on the street that it shouldn't be "tolerated".
I wonder if the church knows that the basis of Islam is Abrahamic? I love it when they fight each other and we get to sucker punch them! To steel a word from my buddy Bugs, You're both idjits.
Comment by Chris on August 26, 2009 at 5:14pm
I'm always struck by the blatant bigotry displayed by these churches. It's all well and good for them to slam another religion or social group as "evil", but be assured that the second an atheist student came to school wearing a

shirt, despite what the Dove Outreach Center SAYS, they'd be crying for someone's head.
Comment by Chris on August 26, 2009 at 5:15pm
Bigotry isn't the word I'm looking for...anyone else know what it should be?
Comment by CJoe on August 26, 2009 at 7:01pm
My problem with this is that parent's are exploiting their kids. Most kids only parrot their parents beliefs and don't even fully grasp the message they're sending. Parents are actually putting their kids at risk for violence by encouraging them to wear those shirts! It's very irresponsible and thoughtless. What if one of those children were attacked? It's entirely possible given the religious climate right now, and I think parents should be charged with negligence if that occurred. They're dragging their kids into a WAR.
Comment by Wesley on August 26, 2009 at 7:02pm
I think every religious person should be forced to wear a shirt that explicitly states what they think about those who aren't of their belief system..... They should have to wear them during 'peace talks' and at the United Nations and during every trip abroad.

It should say.. "I'm a christian, if you aren't you are going to hell....therefore I think your belief system is wrong and your soul is ultimately doomed but I'd also like to talk to you about importing some of our rice......about reducing your nuclear arsenal.....about making peace with these other doomed infidels.... etc..."

Pick your religion and phraseology.... Everyone should have to wear THEIR shirts...so that people CAN be offended, humiliated, embarrassed by their belief systems.
Comment by CJoe on August 26, 2009 at 7:02pm
@Chris... Discrimination?
Comment by Wesley on August 26, 2009 at 7:03pm
tongue in cheek for the above....


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