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Sonoma State University apologizes for ordering student to remove cross necklace

  • The Jean and Charles Schulz Information Center at Sonoma State University (PD FILE, 2002)

Sonoma State University officials publicly apologized Wednesday to a student who was asked to remove her cross necklace by a supervisor who told her it would offend people.

Junior Audrey Jarvis was working at a June 27 orientation for prospective students when she was asked to remove the necklace, said SSU spokeswoman Susan Kashack.

“It was a stupid request and uncalled for and unsubstantiated and the person who did it has admitted all that,” SSU President Ruben Armiñana said Wednesday.

No decisions have been made regarding any disciplinary action.

“I think I’m going to let the process dictate that,” Armiñana said.

Kashack would not identify the employee. She said he is not a student and that he was hired by Associated Students, an auxiliary organization that is the student body government.

Associated Students Executive Vice President Anthony Gallino declined to comment Wednesday.

Jarvis’ attorney, Hiram Sasser, said the San Diego native, who is Catholic, was “told” to remove the necklace because it might offend people and make incoming students feel unwelcome. That was a clear violation of laws governing religious freedoms.

“It would be the same whether it was a Christian cross or a hijab or a yarmulke,” said Sasser, director of litigation for the Liberty Institute in Plano, Texas.

The incident has garnered widespread attention, with media outlets from Fox News to the Washington Times reporting on it. Kashack said by Wednesday morning she had received 94 messages from “angry people across the country who feel the university is discriminating against one student because of her religion.”

She said: “That is not in the least bit the case,” and noted it would be against SSU and California State University policies expressly prohibiting such actions.

Armiñana said there are “no constraints whatsoever, and there should not be and there will not be, about wearing what you want to wear — a cross, the Star of David, a covering on your head.”

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