Father of Nova Scotia Jesus t-shirted teen yanks him out of school

William Swinimer, the 19-year-old Nova Scotia grade 12 high school student, who had  been suspended  showed up at school today wearing his Jesus t-shirt.

Then his dad showed up waving a bible and yanked him out, with some choice words for the public school system, the government and education. Background on the Forest Heights Community School kerfuffle here.

I think the 19-year-old stood up for the right things, and when his minister got involved I wondered if there was more going on than a student finding his way.

The school board had mentioned in prior news reports that attempts to negotiate with Swinimer had been difficult, and it appears it wasn’t the 19-year-old putting his foot down. There are family dynamics here that appear to have nothing to do with freedoms under the Charter. William Swinimer had told media Friday he was nervous about going back to school, I’m left wondering if his nervousness had little to do with facing his peers and discussing what has occurred. The Halifax Chronicle Herald:

William Swinimer showed up at school this morning wearing the yellow T-shirt that has garnered him national attention, but moments later his father angrily strode across the school parking lot, waved his copy of The New Testament at the media, and told them he’s pulling his son out of school.

John Swinimer accused the school district and the province of being anti-Christian, and said his three children have been bullied at the school because of their beliefs.

When asked what’s wrong with having his son take part in the debate, John Swinimer said, “It is time that we rise up. I am not taking questions right now. I am making statements.”

When another reporter asked him if he intends to pull William out of school permanently, or just while the discussions are being held, he said, “I’m making a statement here, I’m not answering questions. … If you overstep my boundaries I’m going to get in the car and leave,” which he did a short time later with his son in the front passenger seat.

The 19-year-old, who has done national media interviews and whose story has been broadcast across North America, had no comment.

“As a parent, I’m making this decision,” John Swinimer said.

While I think the school went too far in the suspensions, they self-corrected and attempted to do what was best for the small community of about 400 students. However, giving dad and Pastor Day attention now, does not help this guy graduate, does nothing for the school or the students. You can see the pastor in the clip with father John Swinimer.

Perhaps media can back off and not give the adults their 15 minutes of fame. It’s possible the 19-year-old (who is technically an adult) knew his dad would be by to wave a bible at media, but I’m prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. Whatever is going on in this family doesn’t need the glare of the media spotlight. This isn’t about dad or his persecution complex, but you won’t know that from what he said to media today. This isn’t about ‘law in the land’ or ‘government’ or dads bible or Christianity. The anger shown by the dad seems to hide a primary emotion of fear. The forum for the students was about respect of beliefs and rights. If there has been bullying, the school has made attempts to address the problem by going directly to students. The rest of the approximately 400 students at Forest Heights Community School need to move forward, and are attempting to do so.

Transcript of ATV clip – John Swinimer:

“And this is who I am, you cannot separate me from this book because this book is in me, it’s part of me, I have this book in my heart and no law in the land, no government in this world anywhere will separate me from this book. I will be a Christian til the day that I die, that’s who I am and I have the freedom in this country to express who I am, to speak who I am and to be who I am,
I walk in love, but today I am angry, today I am going to pull my son out of this school. He has arrived here, yes, and he is going to sign out and he is going to come out and he is going to come home with me. He will not attend this school.”

Talking Pentecostalism is a resource site which explains the movement, history and  beliefs.

Update: William Swinimer went back to school later in the week. He has some misconceptions about the volunteer forum (attended by about 100 students) and he was scared, nursing a persecution complex, but he survived. Interview on 100 Huntley Street. He doesn’t get the ‘in your face’ mentality his dad exhibited with media, but I suspect that is part of his upbringing. Does anyone know the medals hanging on the wall behind him with the Jesus Junk?

About Bene Diction

Have courage for the great sorrows, And patience for the small ones. And when you have laboriously accomplished your tasks, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.
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86 Responses to Father of Nova Scotia Jesus t-shirted teen yanks him out of school

  1. Wanda Janz says:

    I would have ‘yanked’ my kid out too! To put him under scrutiny like this is so very wrong; even if he is 19. Some have a harder time standing up under this much publicity… I know I would. So the father did the right thing… Good on him!

  2. fjc says:

    Don’t blame him.

    But why make a bigger show out of it than is really necessary?

    It was clearly his intent to pull his son from school. Why bother even sending his son to school in the morning since he clearly was going to pull him out?

    I presume his intent was to make a big media show of it waving his bible in the air and dramatically yanking his son out of the school mid morning.

  3. Bene D says:

    “To put him under scrutiny…”

    Don’t blame William Swinimer for the father and the pastor’s behavior Wanda. This young adult will face the school of hard knocks soon enough.

    “”The taxpayer is paying for him to learn his academics as well as the other students and I am not standing for any of this stuff.”

    Excuse me?

    “I’m making a statement here, I’m not answering questions.”

    Fine. You want media attention, you got it buddy.

    The student council vice-president has spoken up (I respect the students in this school as they let this play out). There is more to this story, and they seem more forgiving of William’s behavior than a few are of the students.

    “It started with him preaching his religion to kids and then telling them to go to hell. A lot of kids don’t want to deal with this anymore.”

    And today, those students have an opportunity to work that out. William won’t be there, and if that was his dad’s decision, than I am sorry for him. It is a lost opportunity.

    While the school took it’s time in doing the job they should have done in the first place, they did shift, and teachers and the board have a responsibility to the larger body of students and the community. I don’t see anything in any reports where they neglected to bend over backward for this family.

    I know this area well. There is a high prevalence of substance abuse, poverty and the clash of ‘outsiders’ buying up waterfront and building McMansions. The collapse of resource based jobs (fishing, lumber etc) makes life difficult for many. Chester Basin will someday be a bedroom community of Halifax.

    And I have known many John Swinimers and Varrick Days. They are the salt of the earth, but…their rights are not being trampled on. They have been clear with media what their beliefs and agenda is.
    For dad to be angry and afraid of facilitated student discussions and perceive that as not an academic exercise is short sighted, and I wonder if he is afraid he is not in control anymore. His son is an adult who needs to graduate.

    Varrick Day doesn’t need a degree to be a Pentecostal minister. He is a recovering alcoholic and seems to have forgotten some of the 12 steps. Substituting a soapbox for a bottle is fine and his right, however, taking the life of a parishioner and attempting to make your points internationally is not helpful. Day seized this, and frankly Wanda, Day attempted to hijack what was going on. Dad is not only willing to go along for the ride, he played his part well.

    Let’s be clear. Christians are in media – if I’d covered dad waving a bible at me, I’d let him, cover the story as is, and not let dad or Day know I’m a follower of Jesus too.
    I’d write it up and tell my staff no more, back off, there are family dynamics at play that have nothing to do with Charter rights and freedoms. Or faith. Or a school board.
    When grownups have an agenda around a school issue (or any issue involving children or teens) it is not in the best interest of the family or the community to give people unable or unwilling to see the bigger picture my time or my staff’s time. Swinimer and Day can save it for church, what William was going through is so far off track now, it’s time to back away.

    I am left concerned there is dysfunction in this family that has nothing to do with Christianity, and the spotlight doesn’t need to make things worse. William Swinimer has supports for his rights from groups he could not have dreamed of – Jewish, Islamic, Athiest, Christian. As it should be. For dad and Day to attempt to exploit that level of support is short sighted and isn’t necessary.

    I hope he graduates, too many kids in that area don’t get past high school. If there is a job waiting for him, great, I hope his peers have some sympathy for him after his dad’s little display this morning.

  4. Bene D says:

    Yep. Varrick Day weighed in.
    What if he and dad hadn’t been seeking media attention this morning?
    And since when is it unfair to involve the student body?

    “William and his dad were like, ‘This is going to be like Daniel and the Lion’s Den,’” Day said. “Everybody’s going to be looking at him like ‘you’re the problem, you’re the reason (for the trouble).”

    (Irony alert)

    Day said Swinimer is unlikely to return the school, and instead is looking into options for home-schooling or working through a provincially appointed tutor.

    The pastor said he’s in favour of talks between school officials, Swinimer and his parents to come to an agreement on what’s acceptable. However, he said it was unfair to involve all the students, as had been arranged for Monday.”

    The community involvement isn’t over – there is a community meeting this evening for those who wish to attend.

    School board:

    “The situation is the situation. We are a school and a learning organization and very important and legitimate questions have been raised,” she said.

    “We’re absolutely committed now to following up on that and we’ll learn from it and it will shape how we handle different but similar situations in the future, both at this particular school and in our board.”

  5. Stig says:

    He got kick out of school for proselytizing, simple. No argument here.

  6. Stig says:

    He was kick out for proselytizing. Not for praying or reading his bible, but for insinuating himself among his peers, in an unwelcoming aggressive manner. And as most Christians should recognize, he is now receiving his reward.

  7. Mark Byron says:

    Not all Pentecostals are bad actors, but a disproportionate share of Christian bad actors seem to come from that “spirit-filled” camp, especially if they think they’re acting in the prophetic. There is a fine line between prophetic and jerk, and it is often crossed.

  8. brano says:

    Bravo!…Thank you Mark Byron for those choice words!

  9. Wanda Janz says:

    I do agree that the HOW was unnecessary. I thought that was plain to see.

    I would have taken my kid out after his being bullied. I also hope he does finish school too. Such a shame his dad and that pastor are making a spectacle of themselves… a shame that the boy is caught between a hard-ass and a joke.

  10. Hank Hamm says:

    My heart really goes out to this young man; he leaves with an incomplete education, not because of a T-shirt, but because of the extreme reactions of his pastor and father. This is so wrong.

    I’m not saying that the school was right initially, but they seemed willing to try and make it right. Here was an opportunity for the adults in this young man’s life to teach some important life skills by example. Sadly, they failed him.

  11. Bene Diction says:

    The line did get crossed here, and while I think dad’s ideas of the prophetic has a bit to do with it (as per his Pentecostal leanings), I think there is domestic stuff going on. It’s interesting Varrick Day chose to elaborate with QMI (Sun Media) which is consistent with the political ideology he expressed last week. It’s a shame, I hate to see people behaving like cliches, being part of a denomination does not necessarily mean you have to be politically conformist, and certainly not anti-intellectual.

  12. The Lord Ben Chung says:

    I was a holy roller, and my ‘friends’ back then did not care about me, or everyone else but themselves. I was told that my ACE school, Temple Academy was filled with snobs. They certainly were all snobs to me, an outsider. I think I no longer make the distinction of crazy and crazier. (like dumb and dumber). They are all the same, they will tell you the same lie that they love everyone, but they will wave the bible angrily at people, and they will yell and shout at others who disagree. I think most of these spirit filled folks suffer from personal delusion, and they need anger management. They also lack what is upstairs, otherwise, be counted and stand up and face the world and give an reason for the faith that is in you.

    As you can tell, they do not turn the other cheek, and they do not bless when cursed, and they certainly would like a day in court, instead just take it. I wonder what type of the worldview this young man has, I wonder if it is not the fire and brimstone brand. Maybe his god is full of hate and illogical and enjoys to kill. Imagine if these christian talibans run the country! OMG! that would make me a theist.

  13. Susan says:

    I’m sure William will find options to complete his education. If his track record has been good with grades, he’ll find his way.

    I’m thinking this is more than a t-shirt issue. I’m under the impression that the t-shirt started, the already hot pot, to boiling. Just when it all started, I think some of these kids knows.

    Under the present circumstance at this school, speaking in an open forum was not on Dad’s agenda. That’s a given. Maybe some of the other kids have a good point. Let things calm down a bit.

  14. nightmare says:

    Oh……….now some of the truth comes out. You’re correct, there’s a lot more to this story. Ever think to Google John Swiminer? When was the last time William read a book outside of home preaching? Watched TV? Talked to a friend? Listened to the radio? Got on a computer and Google searched without someone breathing down his neck? Had a point of view……… of his own? There’s a sick situation here. Someone please do a little more digging.

  15. Bene Diction says:

    In dad’s little display for media he said, “”The flower of Christianity can never bloom here.”

    Well, yes it can and it does, every day in every believer in schools all over the world and I’ve no doubt in the lives of Christians at Forest Heights Community School.

    Varrick Day says William’s sister was pulled out of the school last year and is being homeschooled.

    Have a look at John Swinimer’s full rant at Global Maritimes. He really goes off.


  16. fjc says:

    Just another case of someone been manipulated by the Pastor, and a willing father. A shame really.

    Not the kind of life lesson that you want to teach someone of an impressionable age.

    It almost reminds me of those Pastors your hear about from time to time who organize these silly book burning events. They had one in my wife’s home town. All the no so bright sheep attended and brought their books. It sent chills up my spine….knowing what famous person did this during WWII. Really makes you wonder.

  17. The Lord Ben Chung says:

    I think I am going to challenge pastor Day to stage an event to prove his god is the real one by calling upon god to send fire from heaven. He is the only one that needs to prove this, since many of us are skeptics and we won’t need an altar. But this fool needs to prove his faith to the world, now that he has snubbed the school, encouraged this young fool to run from his accusers, and friends, and not face it up like a man. He (Day) has the courage to preach, why not have the courage to prove this once and for all, to call upon fire from heave to burn up his sacrifices? Instead, he is a coward, and this kid bullies some exchange kid from Australia about going to hell and all the crap like that. That is crazy, why should the school be blamed for calling it crazy and stopping from bullying other kids? Keep the school away from religious indoctrination, people! (where is dew when I am looking for him/her? )

  18. Bene D says:

    I feel sick for William Swinimer and his siblings.
    I think he has emulated what has been modeled for him.
    If he doesn’t learn social skills, life will not be kind.

    John Swinimer’s behavior is obnoxious, obstinate, obtuse and rude. I’m glad he ranted on camera, and that Global Martimes put his odd tirade up in full; it gives the community and the larger public audience an idea of what students and school officials were up against.

  19. Wanda Janz says:

    People do not still burn books, do they? That must be something! I think I’m going to be sick!!

  20. Susan says:

    I have no words when I think of the others who just want to do their exams. It’s a school. It needs to move on. I hope they work this issue out. For all the kids sakes.

  21. MEC says:

    Burning books? Wanda what did you think all those Koran burnings were if not book burnings.

    This is such a sad situation. Truthfully the shirt was confrontational and more likely to offend than draw people to Jesus. Wonder who gave it to him.

    My 3 sons all wore shirts that made their faith clear throughout middle and high school and not once was there an altercation or issue. You don’t have to trigger this kind of event unless you choose to.

    The best life lesson William could learn would be to go back, and learn to live in his environment. The servant is not better than his master and they killed Jesus…. just sayin… where is the church growing fastest and most powerfully? In China under terrible persecution. Persecution for your faith is not bad per se- it’s the character that is revealed that is important.

    Where were the representatives of Jesus’ love in this situation? The father and minister only drove people further from Jesus. So sad.

    Bene – I agree with you- there is so much dysfunction here… it’s scary and almost screams abuse.

    Once more Christians are made to look like idiots by the idiots who call themselves Christians.

  22. Bene D says:


    His dad picked it up for him in the US. ‘Nuff said.

  23. Compos Mentis says:

    “He who kicks up the dust looses his ground.”
    … daddy seems a little ‘Bible-Belty’ to me. Not cool.

  24. Bene Diction says:

    The rant came across as non compos mentis…:^)

  25. Wanda Janz says:

    I do not remember any Korans being burned. Was this in Canada? If not, then I will be shocked to learn that Canadians burn books. I have heard that this does happen in America, but that country has done this throughout its history. In Canada, we don’t burn books (at least I have not heard of such a thing in our history).

  26. Not sure how this story became a USA vs Canada thing. The story as I understand it is about a kid who wanted to wear a t-shirt at school that some people found offensive. The more I see of this story, the more I see the controversy is being fueled by a bigoted father and pastor who wears suits that don’t fit him. It is interesting how evangelicals can become so intolerant of other beliefs and yet when it comes to their own faith, they expect everyone else to be not only tolerant of Christianity but to embrace it. If the father wants his son in a Christian school, he should enroll him in one. This is a public school which serves students of all faiths, not just Christianity.

  27. fjc says:

    Can you just imagine the outrage if instead of being an issue over Christianity the boy’s family was Muslim, Jehovah’s Witness, Jewish, Mormon, Taoist…or whatever?

    I suspect the tone of this discussion would have been much different.

  28. Wanda Janz says:

    Linda: Had you been paying attention you would have realized I was speaking to MEC (your little buddy) who said that Qurans were burned somewhere and I replied that I did not think that that had happened in Canada.

  29. So true fjc! Sort of like the outrage there would be if the conversation were about sexual abuse at an fundamentalist school, eh?

  30. fjc says:

    Linda…don’t you know. There is no sexual abuse in fundamentalist schools.

    Get with the program!

  31. dew says:

    First of all this IS a Canadian story, and at one time, public schools in Canada were considered “protestant”, thus they were not Jewish, Taoist, Catholic, Muslim….. Canada was built as a “Christian” nation. Sadly, times have changed, and in trying to become tolerant of other beliefs, what is happening is that others are no longer tolerant of Christian beliefs. Christians are being told what they can and cannot do, in the name of tolerance. It is an unfortunate yet not to be unexpected era in which we live.

    At the heart of the issue is freedom of speech and freedom of religion. – not the size of a man’s suit, for Pete’s sake, nor is it about sexual abuse. That did not have to be brought up in this discussion – has NOTHING to do with it!

  32. Marina says:

    Biblically speaking, this young man and his dad are doing exactly what believers are commanded to do – preach the word in season and out of season. Jesus explicitly commanded his followers to take the gospel to the whole world even when the world says “enough already”.

    Where these guys got it completely wrong is by crying foul on secular authority when the incessant preaching started to piss people off. Tell me, did Jesus run to the authorities when he was “bullied” for offending the high priests with his gospel? Did Paul go to the Roman authority for justice when his Jewish opponents beat him and rioted in the streets for his preaching?

    Why are Christians always trying to get their fair share or trying to exercise their rights in this world instead of just taking their lumps like Jesus did? They’re supposed to imitate him. Don’t they read their bibles anymore? Christians speaking “truth” should be prepared for harsh treatment. Part of the cost of following. Says so in the book.

  33. Marina says:

    Canada was built as a Christian nation, eh? You mean when the Catholic and Protestant churches embarked on a genocidal campaign to rid the new super Christian dominion of it’s savage inhabitants? You mean when the Crown methodically killed off the native peoples in order to legally own the land? You mean the state-protected Catholic and Protestant churches that forcibly converted the aboriginal inhabitants to Christianity? That exploited the peaceful relations built between European and Indian and took away their language and culture and sovereignty? The Christianity that refused to sign a treaty that would have ensured that both cultures could share the land and not be conquered by the other? That ripped children out of their mother’s arms and shoved them into residential schools to be indoctrinated into the faith under the Crown’s approval? And then indoctrinated into being sexually abused? Physically abused? Mentally abused? Tortured? That deliberately infected aboriginal children with infectious diseases? Killed by the untold thousands? The Christianity that left first nations peoples weak, and divided and dependent to this day?

    Oh. That Christianity. Sounds about right.

    “Unbelievers deserve not only to be separated from the Church, but also… to be exterminated from the World by death.” – Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica, 1271).

  34. Wanda Janz says:

    The US was created the exact same way. But much, much worse!

    Didn’t you know that EVERY comment on this blog MUST relate to abuse (sexual) at one time or another? LOL

  35. Diana Stooshnov says:

    You can preach until you cannot utter another word, you can hold the Bible in your hand until your arms gives out, you cannot however, bully anyone into believing in your God. If your life as you live it is contrary to a life filled with goodness, graciousness and grace and love, then you can wear any t-shirt you want and the words will be meaningless to your audience. You can stand firm, stand together, build a wall around your Christ and your faith, and the message of Christ will never resonate outside of your circle. Those that want to be martyrs for the faith, must have the faith first and must clearly show Christ in how they live and how they act.

  36. dew says:

    Marina, a lot of what you say is true, but there is a disinfection between what was done by the Catholic church virus the protestant church.

  37. Bravo Diana, you nailed it!

  38. dew says:

    And Marina, you are right, the Europeans conquered the native Indians – when are people going to get over that? And I don’t mean that in disrespect to anyone, least of all the natives. But that is something that has always been a part of world history – whether through exploration or through war, nations have moved about this earth, settling and changing things. And since you no longer believe in God – makes me wonder whether you ever did, but anyways….God has designed it so that His Gospel, the plan of salvation, would be spread across the earth by the movement of believers in Him. – whether that be by travel and settlement, or by the missionary movement of the 19 & 20th centuries, God is using people to spread the Gospel of eternal life through faith in Him.

  39. fjc says:

    Many years ago I attended a Protestant school in Montreal. For the first few years of my schooling we had the Lords Prayer and Scriptures. Some of the Jewish students were excused and they stood in the hall or did whatever. They were singled out. Their parents lived in our neighborhood, on our streets, and paid the same school taxes. They were friends and neighbors. Yet they were essentially discriminated against. I can remember when they took religion out of the school board. No one had to leave the classroom and stand in the hall (unless they were doing spitballs of course).

    The action was actually instituted by the ‘Protestant’ parents who felt that this was discriminatory to the students of the Jewish faith and believed that the place for religion was a home or church.

    It was the right thing to do all those years ago. It is the right thing now.

  40. The Lord Ben Chung says:

    Let God arise and his enemies be scattered. Amen!

    Let this Hebrew Lord come, so his enemies may be killed before his face! Amen.

    Word of the Lord, and thanks be to god. People!

  41. brano says:

    @Marina…FYI,Canada was built on Freemasonary principles,just like the USA….no brainer…

  42. dew says:

    sorry, my last comment seems to be written poorly – not sure what happened….there is a distinct difference between what was done by the Catholic church versus the protestant church. Hope that makes more sense.

  43. Marina says:

    Study history. European “Christians” conquered the natives. Do you think your god ordered his church to brutally conquer a race of people just so that he could spread his plan of salvation? Canada was Christianized the same way Europe was – by force. They would have to kill Jesus now if he showed up today.

  44. Wanda Janz says:

    I would sincerely hope that they would kill Jesus at anytime He showed up in history or even today! It is in His death and because of it that we have salvation – anything less would not do.

  45. dew says:

    God doesn’t order His church to brutally conquer anyone – He allows people freedom to do as they choose – but He uses us and what happens to spread His word. The spread of the Roman world made transportation easier, allowing for the Gospel to spread. And not everyone who calls themselves Christian are really Christians. MUCH of what has been done in that name over the centuries is not of God. True Christianity does not happen by force – it only happens by the working of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of mankind. It makes me sad that you respond this way – you claim that you left Christianity – no one who has truly been born again leaves, so it would seem that you have never known the Lord. Just head knowledge, not heart.

  46. The Lord Ben Chung says:

    My friend dew, I honour thee with thy sayings but totally disagree with your theology. Your theology is bad about church, its history and the idea of ‘born again.’

    Please read Bart Erhman, and watch Da Vinci code. Some of it is fiction, a lot of it is true.

    In the year Constantine saw the vision of the cross over the Milan Bridge, it was “By This Sign, Conquer!” If you look at Roman battle shields, they have a chi-rho sign, which meant Christ, it was used to battle and kill, in the sign of Christ. Look at how the church treat its dissension, it was death penalty, either here in this world or in the next. It was a cruel cruel Roman practice when this peasant faith was uptook by the Empire. It has not changed much since, in the British and now theAmerican Empire. Please read history, and those who believe certainly can disagree and form new faith, and this Born again and again analogy is very poor, it is not even Christian. It has too much of American individualism and American wild west spirit, so I cannot agree with you in these points. Resurrect a lot of ancient dead Christians, they will all agree with me. Your faith is new in this evangelical-fundamentalist ideals. Please read Bart Erhman my god, and he will guide thee, Amen.

  47. dew says:

    no, my theology is not wrong, it is based on the Bible – I do not need someone who has left the faith to tell me that. As to the Roman shields, it is exactly that – the crusades were based on the Roman Catholic faith, which is not the faith of the early Christians. I have read history, I have been educated, and and I think we had better agree to disagree.

  48. Tim says:

    “He allows people freedom to do as they choose” – You mean like he gave Judas the choice of betraying Jesus?

    “And not everyone who calls themselves Christian are really Christians.” – And that would be according to whose definition?

    Someone really does need to do a little more reading…

  49. fjc says:

    Bottom line is that the boys father is a jerk and undoubtedly being cheered on by the Pastor (just imagine what it is like to be a member of his congregation).

    The poor kid, well young adult, is simply a victim of manipulation and bullying. Terrible environment in which to grow up. He is probably been told by his parents that he is headed straight to Bob Jones University or some other similar half baked post secondary institution.

    I hope he comes out normal at the end of his journey.

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