Update on the Cheerleaders’ Banned Bible Banners

A few weeks ago, I posted about the cheerleaders at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School in Georgia and their pro-Christian banners:

No doubt the banners were inevitably going to lead to a lawsuit. A parent complained and the cheerleaders were told to stop their proselytizing.

It was the right decision.

The Christians who thought they were being “victimized” by following the law here had an easy way to counteract this if they chose to — students could just bring their own pro-Christian signs to the game. That would be perfectly legal.

It looks like they’re taking that advice:

… a month later, the new policy has produced an unexpected result: more biblical verses than ever at football games, displayed not by cheerleaders but by fans sitting in the stands.

Startled and dismayed by the district’s policy, this town of 9,600 people has taken up the cause — and the signs — of the cheerleaders. Calling themselves Warriors for Christ, a twist on the school’s Warriors nickname, fans have held rallies at churches and a local polo field and sold more than 1,600 T-shirts bearing passages from Deuteronomy and Timothy.

A couple things stand out to me about this article.

First, we have the soundbyte from an atheist student:

Even Caleb Wickersham, a 17-year-old atheist from nearby southern Tennessee, acknowledges that fans are exercising a legal right to free speech. “From an atheist’s standpoint, it’s frustrating because I don’t want more religion in my face,” Caleb said. “But it’s their constitutional right.”

I love that quotation because he shares the sentiment I think a lot of us would have. He may not like it, but he acknowledges the legality of what the students are doing.

How many times do we hear about atheists publicly sharing their beliefs in a legal way (e.g. the atheist billboards, getting an atheist license plate, wearing a Scarlet A button, etc.) and the Christian response seems to always be, “This is offensive and it needs to stop”? I’m not saying it’s always the case, but it’s not very often I hear Christians saying “I don’t like it but it’s their constitutional right.”

The second interesting thing I learned is who led the way for the cheerleaders to stop using their pro-Christian banners:

The parent who contacted the school, Donna Jackson, is a graduate student at Liberty University, the evangelical Virginia institution founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Ms. Jackson, who had taken a law class, says she was just trying to protect the school from litigation.

I’m shocked: A Liberty student who actually knows the law?! Impressive.

Some Christians are still pissed off they can’t display their banners on the field, but those are likely the same people who would get offended if the banner in question was anything other than Christian.

Do you think they’d be equally supportive of a banner that read:

“There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and play the game.”

(Thanks to Lyz for the link!)

  • Valdyr

    To paraphrase a cliche, isn’t “Warriors for Christ” about as nonsensical as “Fuckers for Virginity”? Or is “turn the other cheek” actually a lot less important to Christian philosophy than I was led to believe?

    At the risk of tripping the Godwin Alarm, I have to say that I really don’t know of any groups that teach of Christ as some kind of “warrior” or military hero except for a few far-right kookfests. Hitler’s “Positive Christianity” movement, for example, viewed Jesus as a unbending, defiant revolutionary against oppression by (of course) those dastardly Jews. Not saying these people are Nazis, but… the sentiment in those signs just amuses me, with what I know about history.

    If they want a more “manly” savior, they should convert to Islam. Muhammad has plenty of warlord street cred. And he had a flying horse…!

  • Drew

    Coming out of the atheist closet in southern Tennessee at 17? Young Mr. Wickersham’s got some stones. /golfclap

    Also, I’d like to think those signs, constitutional as they may be, would be relegated to the back row out of consideration to the fans behind the signholder. I’d imagine the Golden Rule would be in effect in such a christian establishment.

  • http://riotingmind.blogspot.com BeamStalk

    Valdyr, check out certain aspects of Promise Keepers. Some of that group espouse the idea that Jesus was a man’s man.

  • Valdyr

    This thread is making me want a kitschy portrait of Jesus catching a football. Or at least enjoying some ‘wings with the guys as he sits on the couch and watches the big game (remember, whichever team is quickest to pray for victory gets God’s blessing!).

    Which raises another question: chips. You don’t think Jesus is a double-dipper, do you?

  • mikespeir

    It’s a fad. They’ll get tired of it eventually. Sure, there’ll be some hard-noses who’ll persist in the practice, but they’ll be the exceptions.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    They need a big “touchdown Jesus” just outside the field. I heard that the one at Dotre Dame is now partially obstructed with new stadium construction. So sad.

  • Gabriel

    They don’t even know their own bible. An atheist might consider bringing this verse to the games.

    Matthew 6:5
    And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.

    There probably isn’t a god and the christian one doesn’t even want you to be putting up these signs.

  • Lost Left Coaster

    I’m fine with the religious signs, as long as the fans acknowledge that any loss by their team reflects God’s disfavor towards them. Or the inefficacy of prayer. Or that they have chosen the wrong religion.

  • Gena

    In 1998, I think, my hometown in Texas finally followed the law and banned praying over the loudspeaker before football games. Instead, we were asked to observe a “moment of silence” in which we were, I assume, supposed to pray. The local baptist churches decided that all the Christians should point to the sky during that moment (and wear their Christian T-shirts) as a way of showing that they were praying even if it wasn’t sanctioned by the school. Perfectly legit, and not an imposition on anyone.

    It lasted one season. The next year, no one was pointing up, and only a few people wore Christian shirts (and those were usually from some camp). I’m sure the fervor in Georgia will die away eventually and only the old fogies will be left lamenting the downfall of the signs.

  • muggle

    I have to agreed. That kid’s not only smart, he’s brave!

    The signs are legal but silly. I know I wouldn’t want to be sitting in the stands but I’m no football fan anyway.

    The sign suggested above would be a good protest but so would Gabriel’s joke. Sit in the stands in a Jesus’ costume and lament the blasphemy of ripping up buybull verses on the field.

    Think any of them would get a clue or just lynch “Jesus”?

  • bill

    valdyr, there has been a recent study that showed that double dipping is actually not bad, ie any contamination of dip due to double dipping is negligible. that being said, it is still bad etiquette. in the case of jesus, i would hypothesize that he in fact double dips. i mean, he did die and come back to life, which i believe constitutes a double dip of life. plus, he’s jesus. why should he care about etiquette? he’s god. anybody who critiques his chip eating procedure is likely to be forced to spend eternity as jesus’ footrest on gamedays. bigger question: does jesus prefer coke or pepsi? my guess: curveball, he likes RC.

  • bill

    oh, and @Jeff, td jesus at notre dame is harder to see from the stadium due to renovation before the 97 season. some fans point to this as a kind of cubs-esque curse that has doomed the football team to mediocrity since then. my explanation: bad coaching. then again, inanimate portraits of false gods are very powerful. maybe if the team ate some jesus toast or grilled cheese before the game they’d win more…

  • http://riotingmind.blogspot.com BeamStalk

    Bill, RC for Real Christian?

  • bill

    haha i guess Real Christian fits, i just thought jesus would choose RC just to be different. either that or he’d just turn whatever cola he got into wine and get hammered.

  • Polly

    What’s with the martial theme of the signs? If we ever let these types run things again you just KNOW they’re going to get medieval on your ass.

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-8947-LA-Atheism-Examinerhttp:// Hugh Kramer

    “There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and play the game.”

    Wouldn’t it be grand if someone in the stands displayed that on a banner every time a player knelt in prayer?

  • Siamang

    This looks like a great solution to me.

    Let the folks perhaps learn the difference between government speech and private speech.

    Wow, look! Perfectly legal signs held by individuals in the stands. Was. That. So. Hard?

  • Epistaxis

    How many times do we hear about atheists publicly sharing their beliefs in a legal way (e.g. the atheist billboards, getting an atheist license plate, wearing a Scarlet A button, etc.) and the Christian response seems to always be, “This is offensive and it needs to stop”? I’m not saying it’s always the case, but it’s not very often I hear Christians saying “I don’t like it but it’s their constitutional right.”

    To be fair, it’s possible that many of them do, but why quote them in the newspaper when you can always find some crazies who hate the Constitution?

  • L3D

    I wonder how people would react if see someone with a sign saying “Allah Ackbar!”

  • Ben

    @ Valdyr

    “…isn’t “Warriors for Christ” about as nonsensical as “Fuckers for Virginity”?”

    Thank you for this! I laughed my non-theist ass off.

  • Siamang

    Or Admiral Ackbar, for that matter.

  • Revyloution

    “There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and play the game.”

    I wonder if this would be legal speech? It doesn’t refer to a particular theology, and atheism isn’t a religion. You could write a sign saying ‘There’s probably no leprechauns. Now stop worrying and play the game.” That would obviously be protected, legal speech.

    On the other side, the Supreme Court has already ruled that for the purposes of deciding free speech, atheism should be treated as a religion.

    Either way, that would be an interesting one to see dragged through the courts.

  • Jeffrey

    If they win the game by calling on god to help them, can the other team sue for religious discriminiation?

    It is just SO HILARIOUS that these people think that the CREATIVE FORCE BEHIND THE WORLD, THE UNIVERSE AND EVERYTYING is a sports fan that picks sides.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Gabriel: Matthew 6:5

    That’s the route I would take as well, publicize some Bible verses they wouldn’t be aware or proud of. There are lots of candidates. You could even do it Poe.

  • Jen

    I think that Caleb should hold up some sort of sign like “God cares about football (but not third world starvation)”.

  • hockeyfight

    The real shocker is that Georgia has a “local polo ground”.

  • http://heterodoxus.blogspot.com dmf

    This thread is making me want a kitschy portrait of Jesus catching a football.

    or this. which is totally awesomer.

  • SerTyrion

    The arguement that the students are legally allowed to bring Christian signs to the football game is a bit shakey, in my opinion. Imagine sitting behind one of those morons with the sign… have fun actually seeing the football game. And if you dare ask them to please put down the sign, they would act like your trying to persecute them. All the school would have to do to stop the Christian signs is to… ban signs from sporting events on the grounds that it interrupts other people’s enjoyment of the game.. .by blocking their view. Or, to say if you want to bring a sign… you can… just cant hold it anywhere that would block another persons view. When I go to a sporting event, I dont want to stare at the back of a sign all game long.

  • Andy

    Can’t these people do anything without flaunting their religion? I know it’s their right, but I would think that even Christians would find this to be rather obnoxious.

  • Roger

    I wonder how people would react if see someone with a sign saying “Allah Ackbar!”

    Praise Allah, it’s a trap!!

  • http://thedailyatheist.blogspot.com/ Rodney

    In defense of the cheerleaders, I don’t think they were capable of making the sign. #humor #stereotype

  • Zeriu

    “I disagree with what you say but I will defend you right to say it.” – Voltaire


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