The topic of evangelism made national headlines in Canada recently. It all started with a twelfth grade student in Nova Scotia wearing a T-shirt boldly emblazoned with the words, “Life is wasted without Jesus.” William Swinimer continued to wear his yellow T-shirt even after the vice-principal at his school asked him not to do so, after some students had complained that they found the message offensive. Swinimer’s refusal to obey led to a series of in-school suspensions, and finally a five-day at-home suspension. The normally shy 19-year-old refused to comply even though it might have meant permanent suspension and the loss of his chance of graduating. “I believe this is worth standing up for,” he said, “it’s not just standing up for religious rights, it’s standing up for my rights as a Canadian citizen; for freedom of speech, freedom of religion.”
The regional school board initially supported the actions of the school administration, with Superintendent Nancy Pynch-Worthylake maintaining that repeated defiance of school authorities was justified grounds for suspending Swinimer. The school board issued a statement clarifying that “students may choose to wear clothing that embraces their beliefs.” However, “it is expected that students will not wear clothing with messages that may offend others’ beliefs, race, religion, culture or lifestyle.”
The nationwide debate ignited by this incident was most revealing….