Chastity ring banned from school

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In the news today is Lydia Playfoot and her chastity ring. Her school will not allow her to wear it since its a religious item. She takes the case to court today. Hey – if its a meaningful icon and she simply wants to remind herself and her male classmates that she will not have having any nooky until she gets married [highly recommended btw]then LET HER WEAR IT!

Interesting sideline about rings – I heard a business man named Greg talk about fair trade jewelry this week in London and the unethical practices, including the huge environmental impact of mining gold and silver – something he blames the church for in its push for everyone to buy wedding rings.

UPDATE:

– It was Greg Valerio of Cred Foundation who spoke to us last week about justice in the jewellery business.

– Related: Counting the Cost of Gold (PDF)

– Suggested article to get the skinny on the purity ring thing is Silver Bling Thing. HT: Dave in NZ

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Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name “Precious” :-)

36 Comments

  • Can teachers at the school who happen to be Christians wear their wedding rings which were exchanged at their church weddings? I don’t see any difference between the two rings — each is a symbol of a vow made before God.

  • I’d like to hear more about the fair trade jewelry issue regarding gold and silver. The concept of the engagement ring is very much a Western tradition (started by deBeers to create demand for diamonds). I’ve always wondered whether there is an alternative to the engagement ring in demonstrating one’s committment. Perhaps this is a reflection the church should undergo along with her people.

  • Interesting.
    If you’re not supposed to go around demonstrating it visually (said Jesus) when you fast from food, are you supposed to go around demonstrating visually with a ring that you are fasting from sex?

  • Diamonds are also a commodity that seems to promote unfair labor, corrupt trade, and bad environmental practice.
    So I guess it was okay that I couldn’t a diamond when I got engaged. I couldn’t even affort a ring.
    hehe.
    As for rings in school, I’d like to see how many other religous symbols are allowed.
    And aetheism, even my leading aethiests themselves agree that not believing in God is a belief system. So can an aethiest not go to school if they don’t wear any jewerly, because that might be a sign of believing in nothing, which is a belief?
    I say, we all go to school naked. That’ll solve the problem! 😉

  • Aside from the religious element to this debate, as a teacher I’m afraid I have to agree with the no jewellry in school … I have seen several accidents where rings have caught on a door handle, a piece of equipment, etc and one where an earring caught on another pupils hair and resulted in a ripped earloabe.
    Regarding the obvious statement made by the ring and the comments regarding sackcloth and ashes … I agree. God sees and knows what is done in private, or in this case, what is not.

  • There is one advantage in western society to wearing a ring on one’s left ring finger, and that is that it sends out the social signal that one is married, which probably stops many awkward questions about one’s marital status before they even begin. But that certainly doesn’t necessitate the ring being made out of gold or diamonds. One other thought from someone who is very ignorant on this topic, before we stop the consumption of gold and diamonds altogether, is it possible to enact reforms in the labor and manufacturing process first?

  • Thanks for the article link. In regards to jewelry and ethics, gold and silver, diamonds etc, did they forget that Christians aren’t the only people wearing rings and it isn’t just wedding rings. I haven’t done any research, though I probably will now. Plenty of non-Christians wear wedding rings!
    As a fellow purity ring wearer this upset me. I do not wear the ring to show off. Lydia is right, it isn’t a fad. And it is important to take a stand. I wear it as a reminder. Besides I’m sure most people think I’m married, not many people know what it means. ie the person at the grocery store who says Mrs. as he hands me my receipt.
    Just some thoughts.

  • As Kiwipaddy says this is about jewelry not beliefs… having been a Governor for a School in England, it is common policy for all jewelry regardless, of significance to be banned for students… Girls are normally allowed to wear ear studs and thats all, boys can wear nothing. unfortunatley the Christian Right in the UK currently seems to be trying to follow in the footsteps of extreme Islam and is desperatly looking for test cases to make their point.
    On a side issue, It was reported last year (when they tried to launch the silver ring thing here) that there is a higher rate of teenage pregnancy amongst kids in the US who sign up to abstinence programmes than in the general populace, not sure if it is true though!?

  • This seems like rather a self-inflicted problem: Christians invent a chastity ring then complain that schools won’t make an exception to their rules to allow Christians to wear them.
    What’s to stop other people making up their own exceptions and demanding that schools cater to them?
    And since when did following Jesus have anything to do with asserting MY rights to wear a ring? How is that loving my neighbor? It seems like rather a selfish thing to me. It seems like the worst of American Christianity has been exported to England, unfortunately.
    I also think it’s rather disrespectful to argue that choosing to wear a ring is the same as children in other religions having to obey religious clothing rules.

  • It was reported last year (when they tried to launch the silver ring thing here) that there is a higher rate of teenage pregnancy amongst kids in the US who sign up to abstinence programmes than in the general populace
    This is because, for the most part, religion and abstinence programs don’t stop teens from having premarital sex, it just keeps them from being prepared when it happens. Premarital sex occurs equally among religious teens (conservative Christians included) as it does among everybody else, the religious just feel guiltier about it and end up with more STDs and babies out of wedlock. Just another example of the harmful effects of religion.

  • great comments. really,
    lots of wisdom there.
    i think one of the issues is equality – if muslims are allowed head dress then why are christian symbols banned,. but as some have said – maybe its more of a jewelry issue than a religious issue.
    as for fair trade gold and diamonds, i will post something really soon on that and give you some links.

  • I really believe this is not a religious issue in schools – perhaps in some, but not in the majority.
    As for Mike’s comment about schools doing something useful … they would come under equal scrutiny and suspicion if they did nothing and a child lost a finger. You are probably unaware (as I was until I worked in a school) of the policies in place – for example, one school I worked in didn’t allow children to wear coats with toggles or string around the hood because there had been a previous incident where a child’s toggle caught on outdoor play equipment.
    I think it is quite sad that Christians feel they have to control teenagers sexual activity with the wearing of these rings … what Mark said is true (according to BBC Radio 4 yesterday) about teenage pregnancy rates and STD’s being as high amongst ring-wearers as their non-Christian counterparts. In fact, in some cases it was higher amongst the ring-wearers. I’m afraid I support sexual health education from a young age – as in Holland – and their the statistics speak for themselves with one of the lowest teenage pregnancy rates in Europe.
    Also, while I am ranting …. I have two tattoos – one of which is fairly visible in summer clothing – and I have never been prevented from displaying it in a school. I think individuality is really important and that children should be allowed to express their personalities … just home educate them if you don’t want them to have to dress the same as 300 other children, cut their hair and refrain from wearing rings and things … but understand the reasons why these rules are in place in state school … and they are not always based on religious reasons.

  • Andrew, I assume that headcoverings for Sikhs are considered required by God for the sake of modesty/decorum and so children in Sikh families would be considered in big trouble with God and therefore their families for not wearing them – is that true?
    Whereas chastity rings are not in any sense required by God – they are a made up Christian idea, entirely voluntary.
    Doesn’t that make them quite different?
    If Christians can make up chastity rings and argue that into school policy why shouldn’t anyone be allowed to make up their own ‘religious’ rule and argue it into school policy?
    I don’t get this Christian sense of ‘entitlement’ at all. To me it seems the opposite of self-sacrificial behavior that Jesus calls his followers to.
    “Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah I get to wear a ring because we made up wearing one as part of my religion”
    How is that going to make Jesus appealing to other students, teachers and the community??
    Am I the only one who wonders if people who go to court, trying to exempt themselves from school policy, simply over the right to wear a ring which was invented ten years ago by Christians, are missing the point of what Jesus was/is all about?

  • So the question for me is that even as the schools in England ban stuff like this, do they still force the girls to wear the super-short skirts designed by old men who apparently have a fondness for Lolita?
    I personally find the Purity ring concept to be silly, but I also think uniforms and banning symbols (religious or otherwise) is silly as well. I agree with Helen that it seems rather unchristian for Christians to sue over entitlement issues, but at the same time where is the line drawn in protecting rights and liberties? It is series of little decisions over time that can lead to oppression and eventually violence. I’m not too worried about Christianity at the moment, but the right for other religions to exist without banned and denied access to the public sphere.

  • Silver and Gold are mined and refined in processes that are toxic, but do not need to be polluting. The mining of the ore involves removing both rock and water from the ground, and both of these can be treated or sequestered, so that polluting the environment does not happen. The volume of the waste rock is large, but the toxicity is small, and is a manageable problem.
    The actual processing involves toxic chemicals, but these can be contained and recycled. The overall cost of “clean” gold and silver is only 10 or 20 percent higher. Gold is usually a direct product – one goes looking for gold, but most silver is a byproduct of copper, lead or other mining. Extracting silver from waste copper ores is purely an economic decision. Clean processing just raises the bar a little, and is not going to bankrupt a company.
    Most gold is for jewelry, it has a few industrial and commercial uses. As a result, its price is largely emotional.
    Most silver is used for commercial applications – about a third is photography. More and more photography is going digital, but more and more medicine (as in x-ray film made from silver) is reaching the third world. The price is driven by industrial need, buying more silver jewelry is unlikely to raise the price, merely stabilize it. However, a stable price means a company is more likely to start or continue an industrial process. So, there is a small argument that “Buying silver jewelry means better health in Nigeria.”
    Diamonds are also a mixed product. Most diamonds are industrial diamonds, not gem-quality. In my lifetime as a homeowner, I have “used” two carats of gem diamonds (which my wife wears) and twenty carats of industrial diamonds, in the form of cut stone pavers in my patio. The gems are a byproduct, but DeBeers has marketed them to a high-cost level. A purely emotional, and artificial item.

  • if the school policy is no jewellery, then Christian parents should support it. As has already been said, wearing a chastity ring is not an essential element of the Christian faith. The girl’s parents (church pastors) run the silver ring thing, which makes me think it’s a bit of a publicity stunt. She is about to leave the school, having sat her final exams, but not before she’s cost the school a load of money in legal fees.
    What a terrible witness.
    Completely the wrong way to ‘make a stand’.
    Reading about this in the national papers today made me cringe.

  • Michael, I agree.
    Julie, where did you see super-short skirts? When I went to high school in England we didn’t have super short skirts except for the hour or so when we did gym.
    Maybe movies have them in but in reality I’ve never seen an English school uniform which stipulates them.

  • I think there are various issues here.
    One of the issues is that schools are objecting to self-satisfied, holier-than-thou Christians who chose to use tenuous religious symbols.
    If someone feels guilty about a sexual relationship, it surely helps none to see a classmate wearing something that declares how holy he/she is.
    I don’t think this is really the same with Islamic headscarfs or Sikh headwear. I understand that the reasoning for the Islamic headscarf is decency – that males will be unduely attracted to women’s heads if seen. It is not a ‘I’m everso holy because I promise not to bonk anyone’ statement, but rather ‘I don’t want to be an object for your sexual imaginings’. I think that is a subtle but important difference.
    Second, there is a problem with the manner of the presentation. If jewellery is not allowed at the school (and assuming for the moment that broadcasting your sexual intentions is a good idea) then why the dickens is the ring used? Find something else you can wear – or do to your hair or something – which you can do within the parameters of the school policy! Stop making yourself unnecessary martyrs – it just makes you look stupid.
    Third, there is a problem with the whole nature of the thing. If you have taken a moral decision, why exactly do you think it is necessary to inform everyone else about it?
    I happen to believe that the way Gold, Silver and precious metals are produced is absolutely disgusting. Should I therefore be able to wear a 10 inch medallion around my neck calling on society to repent in an environment where that would be a health and safety problem ? Of course not. What total nonsense.

  • “This is because, for the most part, religion and abstinence programs don’t stop teens from having premarital sex, it just keeps them from being prepared when it happens.”
    ’tis quite true! Having gone to a private “Christian” school for most of my life, I became well acquainted and well-versed in their seminars which we nicknamed: “Anti-fornication days”. (I believe the real title was: vessels of honor)
    This winter I was vising stateside, and was in the wedding party of one of my closest friends. I had a talk with his 18 year old brother. We had a good time discussing the “cirriculum”. They had the exact same messages and stories as when I first heard them in 1991. 16 years and no change to the program. Their science was wrong, their information misleading and their effects damaging. In a word, their program was based on fear. The grandfather of my friend left the table disgusted at our conversation and i was later confronted by the father of my friend. He was not upset by the topic of conversation: S-E-X! No, he was upset that i did little to save face for the church and in fact was tearing down what they did; especially with me as a pastor. Folks, if we act like morons we will be treated as such.
    They told us that condoms wouldn’t protect us from Aids and that “break-outs” were as common as could be… Guess what? It didn’t stop us from having sex. We just didn’t use condoms! In an effort to “fear” us into abject subservience they failed to give us the proper tools to keep us safe. They ignored reality and it caved in all around.
    I lost my “ring” before i lost my virginity. But it was simply a symbol of fitting in. Tell a 14 year old kid to abstain from sex and get some “bling”… is a no-brainer… hell at 14 i couldn’t imagine ever having the opportunity to getting laid.
    Because of this my “resolve” was tied to a piece of gold and it is highly symbolic that as easily as my ring was lost so was my resolve. Better to have taught us how to resist, and how to channel our sexual nature and energy into more productive things for the beterment of the world.
    I believe the church has gonbe the way of the world. Everyone is special. Everyone deserves the prize. We have turned christianity into the special olympics. We get a prize of gold for just participating.
    I’m sorry folks but the gold is weighed and tried and has to be burnt from all else. We must compete to win. We want the victor’ crown of Christ, it will take true dedication. That’s what a wedding ring is, a symbol of our crown given by christ. it is a victor’s ring… we have fought for this day and now we succeed. If it i given out lightly and prematurely then it loses meaning value and motivation. We must earn a ring of purity (wedding band)that has been fought for and sought after. What does it mean for a 14 year old with no temptation???

  • …I am in my late twenties. I am a pastor in Eastern Europe. I mainly minister to those aged 16-30. The women are hot. The opportunities are plentiful. The game is easy. So (other than the fact that I would be removed from my position if found out) why do I not engage in illicit activities? Because i have the hope of something better. I have fallen… many times, and it took a long time to recover. Every moment and every day is riddled with struggle. How do I survive? Because my “fidelity” is not tied to an object not tied to an idea, not tied to a tattoo (yeah that doesn’t work so well either) but to a person. I want to hear my Lord say: well done, faithful one.” I want to see HIM high and lifted up. That’s what i tell my young men and women. No fear. No guilt. No manipulation. Just the promise of something better. Sex fails to live up to its promises. But I offer the unconditional love of one far greater. I never felt guilt, regret, and many times not even remorse. I was a purely physical thing for purely physical sensory experience. It was not the “be all end all”. It was nice, but I wanted more. So i tell them the words of solomon in ecclesiastes that the eye and ear are never satisfied. And We (they and I) listen to the words of my friend Mickey, who having been just as much a scoundrel as i was, has found that the bond of marraige adds that something that he felt he had needed more also. I don’t know. Symbols are merely that: symbols. they aren’t the real thing. The boys don’t need to see a ring to no they aren’t gonna get any, they’ll know when you say no. Sure, the ring may save us from some confrontation, but is that really the point? -to head them off at the past. What about sharing and explaning in love? -giving an reason and an answer for that hope within you. Besides I don’t believ that this is what james meant when he said: “show me your faith without works!”
    “My people perish for lack of vision”
    let’s give the world a vison suitable of trumping all other thngs… not a ting made silver.

  • I just want to weigh in about Greg, who must be Greg Velario of Cred Jewelers, who is one of the shining lights in the jewelry industry supporting fair and ethical sourcing. http://www.credjewellery.com/
    There is a small handful of people in the jewelry industry attempting to change the consensus trance. We hope you don’t stop buying all jewelry– but start putting your attention on asking for fair and ethically sourced jewelry. Supporting that direction can have huge beneficial effects. To learn more, see my blog http://www.fairjewelry.org which is a news and action site dedicated to fair and ethically sourced jewelry.

  • Thanks for the plug on our work with FT jewellery. One comment earlier about mining was obviously well intentioned but lacked knowledge about where our gold and silver comes from. But thats not the point of this comment.
    The silver ring thing I believe is a massive distraction and speaking as a Christian has nothing to do with fidelity and the personal moral choice of the girl concerned. I admire her for her personal stance, but wearing a silver ring will not keep her chaste, only her moral will power will do that and you do not need to wear a ring to obtain will power. of the course I do find it ironic that the silver ring thing whilst an intersting gimmick as a whole is using a metal that is highly polluting, very destructive to the environment, socially questionable as to the human rights behind it, totally untraceable and basically anything but pure and chaste.
    I wish these well meaning Christian groups would actually do some research into the background of their products before they go out on their platforms speaking about Gods truth.
    But never mind evangelical Christianity with a few exceptions is not overly concerned with social and environmental ethics and behaviour, only interested in private and public morality much to the detriment of the power of the gospel

  • And it seems to me many in the EC, with a few notable expections, have no real desire to share the gospel, but instead prefer to spend all their energy on critising the Church.

  • And even more in the EC are attempting to bring together the fulness of the Christian walk and witness by avoiding dichotomies, rebalancing priorities, being W-holy holy, loving people AND respecting God’s creation.
    Despite what the critics say, I dont think having a balanced and Biblical cosmology automatically makes someone a […] Bible denying, evangelistically selfish, church hating follower of Christ.
    Hey – Greg – nice to have you in the comments. Loved your HONESTY and integrity. Your speech rocked.
    I started a new post which is a better place to discuss these issues.
    Its called Greg Valerio on Fair Trade Jewellery
    I will probably close these comments off soon and hope to see people pop up on the new post.

  • Thanks Andrew for the support, your comments on balance and a wholistic biblical worldview are essential in a world of polarised moral debate that misses the point of the message of jesus entirely. ps love the church but am not blind to its shortcomings

  • andrew, everytime you put ‘liberal’ alongside the words ‘bible denying’ you come across as looking pretty ignorant. yes, ‘liberals’ can be christian too, and they can even love the bible with passion.
    please don’t say sorry… you’ve said that before, and it’s pretty obvious by now that you do think liberals are bible denying. just know that you are making sweeping generalisations … which is something you hate people doing about you.

  • I bit back pretty hard, and deserved AJ biting back hard……:)
    but, “But never mind evangelical Christianity with a few exceptions is not overly concerned with social and environmental ethics and behaviour, only interested in private and public morality much to the detriment of the power of the gospel”
    that is a gross and hasty generalisation, aimed to reinforce stereotypes that thrive in this environment (Christian blogging in general)…. If one had to critique the church, make the statement specific….because evangelical christianity is an incredibly wide group of people.
    Blessings to all!

  • Funnily enough, having lunch with Dave Batstone (notforsale campaign) someone noted that there has been a real shift in the last few years, whereby “evangelicals, charismatics, get an issue, and really burn with energy with it, and get stuff done. And the liberals all nod and agree, and do nothing.”
    Which means, I think, that the old labels, once again, are useless. And we need to get beyond them, and just do what’s right. Which is why I think Greg and Cred are so good.

  • ahhhh . . words!!
    ellie i took a look at my comment and i should have used the word “or” to separate that sentence – lest i communicate what i do not believe and what you say i do believe.
    dont we all get screwed up with labels?
    and sorry mark if i sounded harsh -i was probably protecting my guest.
    ok – as i promised i am stopping comments here but invite you to talk about fair trade jewellery and diamonds and whatever on the new post.
    right here