Barry Saunders

Here's some praise for a few prom attire rules

David Leix and his girlfriend, Stephanie Adams, pose for a photo before the “Praise Prom” on May 15.
David Leix and his girlfriend, Stephanie Adams, pose for a photo before the “Praise Prom” on May 15. COURTESY OF DAVID LEIX

Did the organizers of the Praise Prom in Wendell overreact two weeks ago when they refused to let David Leix enter until he put on some pants?

Yep.

Should they have been more flexible in their dress code?

Yep.

Does Traci Lanphere, organizer of a prom to help kids get closer to heaven, deserve the ridicule and contumely she said she’s received since the case of the kilted kid being kicked out became an international story?

Naw. Even if you disagree with Lanphere – and judging by the responses she received, many of you do – you still ought to appreciate anyone seeking to hold young people to some standards of proper attire – even, to use an old-fashioned phrase, standard of modesty. Somebody should, especially when even some grown people don’t know how to dress for the occasion and think putting a crease in their Dockers makes them well-dressed for the opera, a wedding or a funeral.

Banning the kilt, a garment that has cultural significance for many, though, is not the way to enforce those standards, Alan Bain told me Friday. Bain, chairman of the American-Scottish Foundation in New York, was upset when he heard that Leix was not allowed to wear his late grandfather’s kilt into the prom.

“That is an absolute outrage,” Bain said. “Those people should be served with a discriminatory summons. ... I wear the kilt to major events, formals, wreath-laying ceremonies. I deplore when I hear” of such incidents.

“I’ve heard of this happening before, and it should be opposed,” he said.

Bain sounded as livid as I was upon learning that I couldn’t wear my dashiki to my prom: the point became moot when I got stood up. Imagine that, right?

Lanphere started the Praise Prom nine years ago as a “Christian alternative” prom for home-schooled children.

She now finds herself being lampooned and insulted, personifying to some religious intolerance because she said “We want to keep things about Jesus” when explaining the decision. I saw Leix in his kilt, and although he wore it well, his knees were not going to make anyone forget about Jesus.

In a letter to the N&O reporter who first wrote about Leix finding there was no room in the gym for his kilt and him, Lanphere addressed her detractors. She said it was not she, but a student, who referred to the kilt as a “dress.”

“I ask that you have mercy on me,” Lanphere wrote. “We all have the utmost respect for kilts and kilt wearers. And I do so appreciate the kind people who have respectfully shared the history, importance and even the honor that we should feel that David wanted to wear his kilt to our prom. We did feel honored.

“But, now, very dishonored by... the many rude, hurtful, insulting people who have attacked a simple, honest and fun event, created so teens could have a regret free, God honoring, high school memory.”

Her own prom experience, she wrote on the Praise Prom website, was not regret free. It was, she said, “everything we don't want for ourselves nor for our children. Although, somewhere in my heart I had hopes for a beautiful experience and memory, it didn't happen then.”

No blasphemy is intended, but has anyone else noted the irony that Jesus Himself and his disciples would have likely been denied entry into the prom for their contemporary attire?

Some people incorrectly claim that pants weren’t even invented when Jesus walked the earth, while a pastor in Arizona insisted that Jesus and His disciples did wear pants. Another declared that Jesus was a 32-long. Jodi Magness, a biblical archaeologist at UNC-Chapel Hill, was in Jersualem when I reached her Friday and asked her what would Jesus wear.

“In the Roman world,” she wrote in an e-mail response, “both men and women wore the same basic article of clothing, which is called a tunic. A tunic is like a dress... Generally nothing (no underwear) was worn under the tunic (similar to today's Scottish kilts, which are derived from short tunics). However, following biblical law, Jewish priests and male members of the Essene sect wore a kind of loincloth under their tunics for reasons of modesty.

“Pants were worn by peoples farther to the east of Palestine, particularly the inhabitants of the area of Persia (in the time of Jesus, the Parthians). But Jews living in Palestine/Judea did not dress like Parthians; they dressed like Romans. So, Jesus would have worn a tunic and a clock/mantle (but no loincloth underneath). His clothing probably was made of wool, like most Jews living in Palestine.”

Wow. So, dressed like that, would He have been permitted into the prom praising Him?

Not unless Lanphere changed the rules. Even those of us who thank her for trying to maintain standards of dress have to concede that denying Leix entry was – sorry – sartorial overkilt.

Saunders: 919-836-2811 or bsaunders@newsobserver.com

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