Last night, there was a public meeting at Kountze High School to discuss the religious banners used by cheerleaders to pump up the football team, like the ones below:
Initially, Superintendent Kevin Weldon told the cheerleaders to stop with the Bible banners, but in October, a judge temporarily ruled in favor of the cheerleaders, allowing them to continue hoisting the banners until this summer when a final decision could be issued.
Which brings us to last night. The Kountze Independent School District school board hosted a public meeting to discuss reinstating that ban.
They weren’t going to make a decision of any sort, but they wanted to hear what the public thought.
Lindsey Brackin, a 2005 graduate of the high school, was there, and she spoke out against the Bible banners. Her speech — the only one out of 17 speeches supporting church/state separation — was fantastic — an excerpt from it is below. She also appears around the 2:43 mark in this news clip:
No one is trying to persecute these students for their beliefs. They have a First Amendment right to read their bibles, pray, wear crosses, and express their religion in many other individual and group ways while at school. There are several religious organizations on campus for this purpose. If they wanted to hold individual religious signs in the bleachers or off field, they would be very much within their rights. The problem occurs when one team forces another team to make a public proclamation of their faith on the football field. High school is hard enough without added peer pressure to participate in something that you don’t necessarily believe in.
I understand why students and their parents are afraid to join the FFRF’s lawsuit against the banners — I myself have been threatened with bodily harm for speaking out against this religious bullying, and I saw a sign posted in the middle of town stating “IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT LEAVE- WE BELIEVE!”. As a non Christian who was born and raised here, I am appalled that people are insinuating you must buy in to this religious fervor to live here. I can not imagine how the non Christian students in this school feel after seeing and hearing such hatred, but I am sure they are honestly frightened and bewildered. One in four people in the U.S. are not Christian — it is irrational to try and present this school as being made up entirely of Christian students. A public school should be a safe haven for students of ALL religions, and non religions, not a pulpit for one group to try and push their agenda.
Please remember that while THIS particular group of cheerleaders appear to be in agreement on allowing religious statements on the run through banners, some of them will graduate and be replaced by new students. What will the reaction be if that student is a Muslim, a Hindu, or an atheist? What if she does not want religious statements on the run through banners? Will she be removed from the team? I hope the parents here are able to put themselves in the shoes of others and see the long term negative consequences that their actions will have on this school and its students for years to come.
If I could give Lindsey a standing ovation, I would. (Oh, screw it. I don’t care if I’m sitting on my couch right now. I’m doing it, anyway.)
That had to take an incredible amount of courage, being in the middle of a room full of people almost all of whom absolutely oppose her perfectly sensible ideas.
She adds that the board decided to extend the time for public comments another 10 days, so feel free to send your (polite, respectful) thoughts to Administrative Assistant Jerri Smith so she can pass them along to the board.
This has nothing to do with infringing students’ free speech and everything to do with preventing a public school from endorsing Christianity over other faiths and no faith. If the district cares about its students — and is brave enough not to cave in to angry, Christian locals — they’ll do the right thing and keep the Bible banner ban in place.
But this is Texas. Is anyone that optimistic?
(Thanks to Kacy for the link)