A Christian student suspended from a high school in Nova Scotia for sporting a T-shirt with the slogan "Life is wasted without Jesus" vows to wear it when he returns to class next week.
William Swinimer, who's in Grade 12, was suspended from Forest Heights Community School in Chester Basin in Lunenburg County for five days. He's due to return to class on Monday.
The devout Christian says the T-shirt is an expression of his beliefs, and he won't stop wearing it.
"I believe there are things that are bigger than me. And I think that I need to stand up for the rights of people in this country, and religious rights and freedom of speech," he told CBC.
Officials with the South Shore Regional School Board plan to meet with Swinimer to hopefully reach a compromise.
Nancy Pynch-Worthylake, board superintendent, said some students and teachers found the T-shirt offensive.
"When one is able or others are able to interpret it as, 'If you don't share my belief then your life is wasted,' that can be interpreted by some as being inappropriate," she said.
Refuses principal's order
Swinimer wore the T-shirt every day to class for several weeks. The principal told him repeatedly to stop wearing it, but the student refused to comply.
Swinimer says the principal would have accepted a shirt with the slogan, "My life is wasted without Jesus."
"But I didn't go for that because I have my rights as a Canadian citizen," Swinimer said.
Swinimer says he never intended to attack anyone else's beliefs. He says he will continue to wear the shirt and is prepared to be suspended the rest of the year.
The board is looking for some guidance on the matter. It hopes to bring in an expert to help mediate the dispute with Swinimer, his family and church supporters.
"We'll be looking for some people with understanding in this area to help us with that," Pynch-Worthylake said.