The Ring Thing

colson2Lydia Playfoot wanted to wear a ring to school—a ring that symbolized her commitment to remain chaste until marriage. But school authorities said no—and punished her for wearing it. It’s an example of the growing hostility to the Christian faith in the public schools—both in Great Britain and in America. Lydia Playfoot belongs to an organization called The Silver Ring Thing, similar to the True Love Waits program. The ring is engraved with a verse from 1 Thessalonians, warning believers to avoid sexual sin. But Lydia’s high school in South London has a rule against jewelry—and forbade her to wear the ring. Lydia sued. She pointed out that the school allows Muslim students to wear a head covering called the Hijab. And students of the Sikh faith are allowed to wear religious bangles. In response, the school argues that distinctive head-garb and bangles are requirements of Islam and the Sikh faiths. By contrast, it says, a purity ring is merely an expression of religious belief. Well, Lydia disagrees. She told the court, “The real reason for the extreme hostility to the wearing of the . . . purity ring is the dislike of the message of sexual restraint.” This message is “’counter cultural’ and contrary to societal and government policy,” she said. This is not the first time British Christians have gotten in trouble for wearing small symbols of their faith. Two years ago, a 16-year-old was suspended from her school in Derby for refusing to remove a cross and chain to comply with a jewelry ban. And this year, a 13-year-old was told to remove her crucifix and chain because they breached health and safety rules. Health and safety rules? Unless you’re a vampire, just how dangerous can a crucifix be? British Christians have also come under attack by British Airways. Nadia Eweida, a Heathrow airport check-in worker, was suspended without pay for refusing to remove a crucifix. British Airways claimed the crucifix violated the company’s dress code—the same code that permits Muslims and Sikhs to wear headscarves and turbans. Eweida is suing British Airways for religious discrimination. As she put it, “Only Christians are forbidden to express their faith.” She’s right. When British authorities and employers make a distinction between religious requirements and religious expression, one has to wonder why they won’t make distinctions between ordinary jewelry and jewelry that symbolizes religious faith—especially when they bend over backwards to accommodate other faiths. To permit required religious garb while forbidding discreet symbols of religious faith is, in effect, a form of discrimination against Christians and Christians alone. It is, to use a term loved by secularists, intolerant. The same types of attacks are occurring in the U.S. As I write in my new book God and Government, Christians at some public schools are having to fight for the right to leave school for religious holidays without being punished. You and I need to be aware of the attempt to silence even the quietest Christian messages—even as our society goes the extra mile to be sensitive to other faiths. Lydia Playfoot is right: Rules about clothing and jewelry are less about accommodating religious requirements than they are about silencing Christians.  
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For Further Reading and Information
Chuck Colson, God and Government (formerly Kingdoms in Conflict). “British Court Hears Chastity Ring Case,” Christian Broadcast News, 25 June 2007. “BA Faces Legal Action over Worker’s Crucifix Ban,” Guardian Unlimited, 15 October 2006. “School’s Chastity Ring Ban ‘Violated Religious Freedom,’” Guardian Unlimited, 22 June 2007. “School in Court Over Chastity Ring Ban,” Sky News, 22 June 2007. Alan Cowell, “British High Court Wrestles With Symbol of Premarital Purity,” New York Times, 22 June 2007. Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, “Double Standards for Christians and Jews Versus Muslim Students?” Canadian Free Press, 23 June 2007. “Under the Veil: Religious Exemption and Muslims,” Assyrian International News Agency, 22 June 2007. Gina Dalfonzo, “Should Jewelry Stores Post Warning Labels?” The Point, 8 May 2007. Martha Anderson, “The Right Not to Feel ‘Uncomfortable,’” The Point, 23 March 2007. Breakpoint Commentary No. 060905, “Religion in Public Schools: What’s Kosher, and What Isn’t?” Breakpoint Commentary No. 060111, “Jesus in the Public Square: Religious Freedom Day.


Chuck Colson


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