A fourth grader in Utah was made to wipe the ashes off of his forehead that he had received on his way to school on Ash Wednesday as part of his Catholic upbringing.

Nine-year-old William McLeod says he explained to his teacher that receiving the ashes marks the first day of Lent and the start of the Easter season, an important time for Catholics. The boy says the teacher, Moana Patterson, told him the ashes were "inappropriate" and instructed him to "go take it off."

McLeod says Patterson gave him a "de-infection wipe" and "she made me wipe it off." William said the teacher helped him to remove the ashes as the rest of the class looked on.

Christians and Christianity continue to come under attack in this country and around the world. It is sickening.

Somehow this has turned into a discussion about the Constitution and whether the boy has a Constitutional right to display ashes on his forehead to mark a day that is important to his religious beliefs. That is certainly an important part of the debate, but it goes deeper.

Remember when a group of Catholic high school kids from Covington, Kentucky were attacked for wearing MAGA hats at a pro-life rally?

What is most disturbing is Patterson's immediate reaction to McLeod's explanation that the ashes are a symbol of his Catholic faith. He was immediately told that it is "inappropriate" and to "take it off." This was the teacher's personal reaction to the boy's religion.

If Patterson was unsure of the situation she should have immediately sought guidance from a supervisor. She made the symbol disappear instead. Somehow I suspect the teacher's reaction might have been different had a student showed up with a prayer rug or a hijab. It would have been a teachable moment about inclusion.

The school district reacted with shock and anger over what happened to William McLeod. The district is investigating the incident and Patterson, who is on administrative leave could face further disciplinary action. As well she should.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. 

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