For over five years, the cheerleaders at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School in Georgia have been rooting for their football team by using pro-Christian banners:
Apparently, ripping through the word Christ helps you win games?
But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that’s illegal. You can’t endorse religion like that at a public school event.
A former class president of the school (and current youth pastor) doesn’t seem to understand the legal problems here:
“The cheerleaders are not trying to push a religious cause, to shove religion down someone’s throat,” said local youth minister Brad Scott, who was LFO High’s class president in 2004. “The cheerleaders are just using Scripture to show motivation and inspiration to the players and the fans.”
After a complaint was lodged last week, the school board banned the Christian banners.
Fort Oglethorpe Mayor Ronnie Cobb doesn’t seem to understand the legal problems here:
The mayor doesn’t seem to give a shit about any of the students who are not Christians, or the students who are too afraid to come out as non-Christians, or the Christians who don’t see a need to ram their faith down everyone else’s throat.
… Cobb vehemently disagrees with the ban and said he’ll call on the City Council to support the cheerleaders and their signs.
The signs don’t infringe on anyone’s religious rights and are good for school spirit, he said.
“I’m totally against them doing away with it,” Mr. Cobb said, adding that the cheerleaders’ rights are being abused.
The Christian Law Association’s Barbara J. Weller is trying to advise students on how to subvert the system in a legal way:
… there is another way around this problem. The students themselves have free speech rights at the school, including the right to discuss religion. Therefore, if the students themselves make other banners with Bible verses that are not part of their official cheerleading activities or an official banner for the game, these student banners would be protected free speech.
So I have been advising those who call us that while the students may not continue to put Bible verses on the banners they have been making officially for the games, the students have the right to make other banners with Bible verses on them, as long as they make the banners away from the school and bring them to the games to display on their own, without the school’s approval, permission or participation.
Finally, if the official school banners merely used the words, ‘Power, Love, Self Discipline’ on the official banners without reference to the Bible verse that includes them, this would not be religious expression and would not serve as the basis for a potential lawsuit.
While there’s a lot of controversy surrounding these banners, the school board made the right decision. The school must remain religiously neutral and not endorse a particular faith. Whatever kids want to do on their own regarding faith is their decision.
(Thanks to everyone for the link!)