Scaring the hell out of you


A Missouri-area student is like many others who have tested their school's limits, only this one offers a religious twist on a t-shirt. Michelle Ramirez, 12, was pulled from class after wearing a shirt with the phrase in all caps, "Jesus, he scares the hell out of you."

Fox's local affiliate is all over the story, even grabbing shots of the student and her mom at (it looks like) their house. Sadly, the resulting story offers little more than a few sound bites.

The school's dress code policy says this is a slang use of the word "HELL" and wants to ban it. "Outside the school environment, it might be fine." Kirkwood School District Community Relations Director Ginger Fletcher said, "But anything within the school that is inappropriate, vulgar use of language might create a disruption in the school, we'll ask the student to modify the garment."

Michelle's mother, Christina, insists it's the literal use of the word "HELL" in a motivational message. Christina even told Michelle to change back into the T-shirt when the school made Michelle change. "When I got on the phone with Michelle, I told Michelle, 'If you feel convicted to wear the shirt, you go ahead and put it back on."

Obviously the mother and daughter feel strongly about their beliefs and the daughter feels convicted about Jesus and hell, but that's about all we know. We get a brief glimpse of how Michelle feels about Jesus but few details.

"I don't think it's a slang word because it's all capitalized," Michelle added, "and even though the "Hell" is a different color, that it still mean the same thing: That he does scare the hell out of you, that you're not letting the devil in."

...Christina still stands by Michelle, believing the message supercedes the double-entendre. "This? I'm so proud that she stood up for what she believed in."

It's nice to know that her mother is proud of her for standing up for her beliefs, but we hardly know what those beliefs are.

Towards the end of the program, the reporter says that that the student "got the shirt from her youth group that specializes in extreme messages to promote their beliefs." What's confusing about this assertion is that we don't know what kind of youth group this is and don't see any examples of how it's "extreme." Did the student say the youth group was extreme or is the reporter making the interpretation based on something he saw?

Other outlets, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, followed the Fox report with a few added details. For instance, the Post-Dispatch reports that she wants to become a youth pastor. Unfortunately, it's unclear what kind of church she or her parents attend, even though reporters spoke to the parents.

Michelle said that she would not wear the shirt to school again. She and her father read a passage in the Bible Thursday that said Jesus respected the law of the land--and she would, too.

She noted that on Thursday another student wore a shirt that said: "We kick balls." Other students wear shirts with rappers or gang insinuations. "I'm more offended by a L'il Wayne T-shirt than a shirt with 'hell' on it," Christina Ramirez said.

Daniel Ramirez, Michelle's father, called the school's position "a double standard." "I like that she's not trying to sugarcoat it," he said. "It's not heck or Hades."

The made-for-TV story loses a clearer sense of the tension when it doesn't offer more specifics of the student's faith. Since we're so excited about this phrase, the lack of details could "scare the hell" out of most editors.

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