By Joshua Rhett Miller
Raymond Hosier is wearing his purple rosary beads to school again.
A day after a federal judge ordered a New York middle school to reinstate the seventh-grader, who was suspended for wearing the Catholic prayer beads last month, the 13-year-old Schenectady boy is proudly displaying them again.
He wears them in memory of his younger brother, who died while clutching rosary beads following a car accident in 2005.
“Raymond believes in his heart of hearts that without the rosary, something’s going to happen to him,” his mother, Chantell Hosier, told FoxNews.com. “They make him feel safe — that’s the way he explains it. This child is still grieving.”
Chantell Hosier confirmed that Raymond wore the beads to Oneida Middle School on Wednesday after Judge Lawrence Kahn ordered the boy to be reinstated pending a hearing on June 11 into whether the suspension violated his civil rights.
District officials did not return requests for comment, but they contend Hosier violated a policy banning gang-related clothing such as rosary beads, which are sometimes worn as gang symbols. That led the American Center for Law and Justice to file a lawsuit on Tuesday in U.S. District Court arguing that Raymond’s suspension last month violated his rights to free speech and religion.
Hosier, 40, said she found it “absolutely offensive” that district officials included rosary beads in their policies against gang-related clothing.
“Raymond is not the only kid walking around wearing rosaries,” she said. “If that’s something that gang members are doing now, let’s take that up with the gang members, not Raymond.”
The lawsuit — filed on behalf of Raymond against Schenectady City School District and school officials — asks the court to declare the school’s dress code and the boy’s suspension unconstitutional. It also requests a jury trial.
Raymond received a one-week suspension for refusing to remove the beads or hide them under his shirt two weeks ago. He was suspended again last week when he returned to school wearing the beads.
“Raymond wants to wear his beads wherever his wants to wear them,” his mom said. “There’s absolutely no reason why he shouldn’t be allowed to. And Raymond has learned so much about his First Amendment rights through this process — it’s actually been a wonderful experience for him.”
Hosier said her son celebrated “like it was his birthday” following Tuesday’s ruling. Raymond has worn the beads ever since his younger brother, Joey, was struck and killed by a car in 2005 as the family looked on.
“The only thing I am concerned about is him getting a fat head,” she said. “You know, ‘I can do whatever I want.'”
Another school district in New York recently penalized a student for wearing rosaries. In February, a 14-year-old boy in Haverstraw was suspended for a day for wearing the symbol. In late 2008, a high school student in Dallas was told to stop wearing her rosary.
An official from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany declined to comment on whether rosary beads should be included in school dress codes.
“A rosary is a devotional object used by Catholics to assist in their worship,” the church official said, adding that they are typically carried in a pocket or purse. “A rosary is not a symbol other than anything I just told you.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.