California, July 3, 2013
An official at Sonoma State University ordered a student working at a freshman orientation fair to remove or hide a cross necklace on two separate occasions. The unnamed official feared that other students could be offended by the two-inch-long symbol of Christianity.
The first of the two incidents occurred at the public school in Northern California’s wine country on June 27, reports Fox News. The official, an orientation supervisor, warned Sonoma State student Audrey Jarvis that “the chancellor” enforced a policy against wearing religious items.
“The chancellor” is presumably Timothy P. White, the chancellor of the entire 23-school California State University system.
According to Hiram Sasser, an attorney representing Jarvis, the supervisor advised the practicing Catholic “that she could not wear her cross necklace because it might offend others, it might make incoming students feel unwelcome.”
Jarvis, 19, said she was floored by the explanation.
“I was offended because I believe as a Christian woman it is my prerogative to display my faith any way I like so long as it is not harming anyone else,” she told Fox News. “I was very hurt and felt as if the university’s mission statement — which includes tolerance and inclusivity to all — was violated.”
On a second occasion, the supervisor ordered Jarvis to conceal the cross under her shirt or get rid of it. That’s when the liberal arts major decided to bail early on the orientation job.
Sasser, the director of litigation at the conservative- and Christian-oriented Liberty Institute, calls the supervisor’s actions “obvious religious discrimination” and is seeking an apology.
The attorney added that the law is pretty settled in this area. “State employees may wear crosses while they are performing their duties as long as the wearing does not interfere with the employees’ duties or harm the employer’s business interests,” Sasser counseled.
Management at Sonoma State, a school known mostly as a laidback hippie haven with a nice library, is apologizing repeatedly and without reservation.
“Someone who works here was concerned that the cross might be off-putting to students who are coming to campus for the first time,” confirmed university spokeswoman Susan Kashack. She added that the supervisor’s behavior was “completely wrong.”
“It was absolutely an inappropriate action for him to make that request of her,” Kashack added, according to Fox News.
“It’s possible that political correctness got out of hand.”
Sonoma State President Ruben Arminana is in on the groveling as well.
“The president was very upset about it and asked me to contact Miss Jarvis and give a profuse apology,” Kashack said.
Kashack noted that school officials have communicated with the unidentified employee who ordered Jarvis to remove the cross necklace. However, she refused to disclose what was said or if he faces any sort of consequences.