There was a story in the news recently about a 16 year old girl who has been trying to take her school to the High Courts for discrimination against Christians. She claims that the school's banning of her wearing a purity ring as a symbol of her faith-based commitment to celibacy is an impingement of her right to freedom of religious expression.
I'll make no secret of the fact that I'm a committed Christian, and I support the church's teachings of 'chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within'. But I think the school has acted perfectly reasonably in this instance, and that the girl is wrong to pursue her case to this extent.
Don't get me wrong - good on her for having principles and being willing to be open about them. I don't know if I could have been so forthright at her age. But there are many values that Christians are called to uphold, aside from sexual purity. Obedience and respect, for example. In Romans 13:1-7, for example, Paul teaches that Christians should submit to governing authorities. His reasoning is that authorities have been instituted by God and thus rebellion against them is rebellion against God. Now, I'm not saying your average head teacher is God-appointed (can you imagine the kind of ego-trip that might induce?!). Nor am I suggesting the St Paul had school uniform policies in mind when he wrote that. Or that any kind of political protest is wrong, if we see authorities acting unjustly. But the passage goes on to say:
Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.I think the underlying message here is that respect and submission to authority where its due. If a school has a uniform policy then you don't disobey that without very good reason. I don't think wanting to wear a purity ring constitutes a very good reason. If the school banned her from discussing her values with other people, or publicly ridiculed her for her beliefs, then that would be an issue that needs addressing. But not wearing a purity ring doesn't diminish from one's commitment to chastity.
Wearing a purity ring isn't an integral part of Christian faith expression. Even wearing a cross or crucifix isn't required in order to be a 'good Christian', although it's sufficiently common that it is a universally recognised outward sign of faith and, as such, I felt that the case of the BA employee who was told to remove hers was a slightly different matter. I hope that the girl stays true to her proclaimed values, and isn't being coerced into any of this by other people. I hope that she still finds the courage to stand by her views without the reassurance of physical symbols. But I also hope that she and her family have the grace and humility to stand down on this challenge and divert their energies to more pressing concerns.