Freedom From Religion Foundation Takes On Texas Cheerleaders

I just love it when militant secularists pick the wrong opponent. Anyone dumb enough to take on a group of Texas cheerleaders deserves the ensuing fight.

According to an ABC News story, a cheerleading squad at Kountze High School, near Beaumont Texas, were in the habit of holding up banners with Bible verses painted on them at football games.

Enter the Freedom From Religion Foundation of Madison Wisconsin. These folks, with their extraordinary sensitivities, were evidently so outraged at the thought of high school banners 1200 miles away that they felt compelled fire off one of their threatening phone calls to the Beaumont school superintendent.

The superintendent then forced the cheerleaders to stop holding up the banners.

Presumably, this allowed the outraged Wisconsin Freedom From Religion people to go back to sleeping at night, assured that they had stamped out the great banner threat to their goal of ending freedom of speech when they don’t like what’s being said. But they didn’t reckon with who they were dealing with. Evidently cheerleaders in Wisconsin are made of different stuff than they are in Texas. If the FFR people had asked me, I could have told them they were in for a fight.

You don’t mess with Texas.

You really don’t mess with Texas cheerleaders.

The cheerleaders are going to court. The ABC News article says in part:

Texas Cheerleaders Fight Back Over Bible Verses
Ryan Owens (“ABC News,” October 4, 2012)

Cheerleaders in a small East Texas town that worships two things — God and football — are now fighting back after the Bible verses they painted on banners to display at games were banned.

The cheerleading squad at Kountze High School, just north of Beaumont, Texas, would show their support for the team, and also display their religious beliefs, by painting Bible verses on the banners players run through before every game.

“We just wanted to encourage the boys,” one cheerleader said.

The banners apparently offended someone, though, and that unidentified person complained to an atheist group, which argued that the Bible banners amount to a public school’s advocating a particular religion, which is unconstitutional.

“This is not a Christian school and they cannot misuse their authority,” Annie-Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, said.

Ultimately, school superintendent Kevin Weldon forced the cheerleaders to stop using scripture on the banners.

That was when the squad members put down their pompoms and picked up the phone, calling attorney David Starnes, who argues that the banners are not school sponsored.

“It was student led … student initiated,” Starnes said.(Read more here.)

  • Ashley

    ” These folks, with their extraordinary sensitives evidently managed to be so outraged at the thought of high school banners 1200 miles away that they felt compelled to make one of their threatening phone calls to the Beaumont school superintendent.”

    FFRF doesn’t generally go looking for cases like this. They almost always act in response to local complaints. In any case, I wasn’t aware there was a geographic limit to challenging lawbreaking and wrongdoing. Maybe that’s a Texas thing.

    “Presumably the outraged Wisconsin Freedom From Religion people now slept easier. But they didn’t reckon with who they were dealing with. Evidently cheerleaders in Wisconsin are made of different stuff than they are in Texas. If the FFR people had asked me, I could have told them they were in for a fight.”

    FFRF is very accustomed to fighting these issues out in court in all parts of country, and they win in the vast majority of cases. Most jurisdictions these days correct their behavior without a court fight, because they have quality legal representation that tells them they’re almost certainly going to lose. Perhaps your “don’t mess with Texas” bluster makes you feel better, but public schools and the groups they sponsor aren’t allowed to ignore our Constitution. The cheerleaders are very likely going to lose in court, and waste somebody’s money doing it.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I am very well aware that the Freedom From Religion Foundation is attacking free speech when it comes from religious people throughout the country. I view this as an attempt to use the courts to bully and harass people of faith and force them to withdraw from the public arena. I understand that they have been winning in the courts. That is part of why I started this blog. It’s time Christians became aware of this concerted, organized and utterly bigoted attack on religious freedom in this country.

      “FFRF is very accustomed to fighting these issues out in court in all parts of country, and they win in the vast majority of cases. Most jurisdictions these days correct their behavior without a court fight, because they have quality legal representation that tells them they’re almost certainly going to lose.”

    • Styeve

      President Obama effectively tore down the wall of seperation between church and state with his HHS mandate. It’s a brand new ballgame. God bless Texas!

    • Shan G.

      Ashley,
      You seem like you are acquainted with the workings of the FFRF, so I am hoping you are familiar enough with their ideology that you can explain of what it is so frightened that it tells kids they can’t express their simple religious signs? Thanks in advance.

    • Mike S.

      Ashley,

      You wrote: “FFRF doesn’t generally go looking for cases like this.”
      You are completely mistaken. They threatened to sue the city of Steubenville, Ohio – *hundreds* of miles away, because the city logo displayed our city’s skyline which includes a cross (prominently visible in the city skyline).
      And no, neither that, nor what the cheerleaders did is against the law.
      They’re trying to bully people from other states into not freely exercizing their religion. They’re trying to deny folks of their first amendment right.
      So, no. You are sadly mistaken if you think that this is a fine, upstanding group trying to make sure everyone obeys the law.

    • Ismael

      “FFRF is very accustomed to fighting these issues out in court in all parts of country, and they win in the vast majority of cases. Most jurisdictions these days correct their behavior without a court fight, because they have quality legal representation that tells them they’re almost certainly going to lose. ”

      FFRF are indeed frustrated atheists with a grudge and a lot of money who they spend not in helping people but in harassing people and enforcing unconstitutional laws that prohibit people to express their religeous view freeely.

      “The cheerleaders are very likely going to lose in court, and waste somebody’s money doing it.”

      Yes and this tells us how some atheists are willing to do anything to enforce their totalitarian view.

  • Ted Seeber

    The FRFF is proof that the same spirit of dictatorship from Atheist USSR is alive and well in atheism in the United States.

  • nineamendments

    Nothing wrong with freedom of speech. Nothing wrong at all. People should be allowed to express their support for God.
    Now let Mitch Romney wear an “I believe in Mormonism”.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Not quite sure what you’re saying here. I agree about freedom of speech and Governor Romney’s freedom to wear a button or whatever it is you are referring to, as well.

  • http://reflectionsforthesoul.com Marcelle Bartolo-Abela

    Love it! Way to go, TX cheerleaders.

  • Olivia

    You can be a Christian and still be against these banners (and for strict separation of Church and state). It protects us all. I think for many years Christians have held a privileged place in our society and have been allowed to overstep the boundaries of the law. Now that people (including other Christians) are calling them on it, they are getting upset, and understandably trying to push back. It feels like “rights” are being taken away, when really they are just being asked to follow the law like everyone else.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I agree that we can disagree and still be Christian. However, I think you are off the mark in your understanding of the situation. This is, among other things, about the right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression. It is also about a well-organized movement to drive Christianity, Christian thinking and expressions of faith from the public square. As with so many things of this nature, it begins with areas that seem unobjectionable and progresses to those that are not. I’ve been harassed and threatened with false claims of “separation of Church and State” to know that what I’m saying is true on a first-hand basis.

      Christians who support the oppressors of Christians may someday end up like Martin Niemoller.

      • Olivia

        I have been following this specific situation fairly closely, and think I understand it pretty well. Students in the stands who want to hold religious signs (or wear T-shirts, etc) should clearly be allowed to do so. (Though I realize some administrators incorrectly place limits on student speech/expression out of fear and ignorance of the law; or due to pressure from overzealous secularists who don’t understand the law…eg forbidding mention of God/Jesus in a valedictorian’s speech. And I think KISD superintendent Weldon’s initial directive could have led people to believe he was prohibiting both the cheerleader banners and individual student religious signage.) But the banner issue isn’t about individual freedom of religion, or expression. When the cheerleaders do something as a group, in their uniforms, on the field at a football game, they are representing the whole school, and as such, should NOT be promoting one religion. It doesn’t matter if they came up with the idea themselves or paid for the materials. It gives the impression that the school promotes Christianity over other religions. The Supreme Court case Santa Fe ISD vs. Doe covered a somewhat similar situation; it banned student led prayer prior to the school’s football game (over the PA system).
        Christians who don’t support the Constitutional separation of church and state may someday end up like Martin Niemoller.

  • John

    The problem is that the federal government is involved in local education systems. Take federal dollars and you become, for all intents and purposes, an arm of the federal government and thus incapable of individual expression without following the dictates of good ol’ Uncle Sam. Federal involvement in education hasn’t exactly led to spectacular results.
    Don’t take fed money and be free. That’s really the only solution. Otherwise they will lose this case. I’m pretty sure the Constitution doesn’t speak to the ability/inability of local school systems establishing or endorsing a state religion. Which, clearly for any bozo to see, this is not a case of any form of government trying to establish a state religion. Foolishness.

    • Kate

      It’s any public money, state, city or federal. Public tax money cannot support religious teachings. Private schools can teach religion all they want.

  • MichaelP71

    Strap em up girls, put on your eye black and get out there!!!

  • Jim Mazzarelli

    People ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it. The Constitution says nothing about the “separation of Church and State”. It reads that Congress shall enact no laws for the establishment of religion. The free exercise of our religious beliefs is a right under the Constitution. This is nothing more than what GK Chesterton and others referred to as the “tyranny of the minority”. Good (and God) for the Texas cheerleaders! The Founding Fathers’ intent was to protect the Church from the State, and that’s exactly what we need to do, including beating back the ridiculous attacks from the Freedom From “Reason” Foundation, as well as shooting down the over-reaching HHS mandate.

    • Dave

      Thank you, Jim!!! I have had it with the BS of “the separation of Church and state.” It’s not even in the Constitution at all. These people have NO IDEA what they are talking about.

      The first usage of the phrase “separation of Church and state” was in a letter from Thomas Jefferson, who frequently wrote letters and spoke on the theme that the government should not interfere in religion. By the way, “government” means federal government. Some states back then DID have established religions of that state, and that was fine. I doubt that would fly now. What changed, the Constitution, or our interpretation of it? The answer is obvious, and unsettling.

      Frankly, if someone thinks that a bunch of Texas cheerleaders holding up signs with Bible verses constitutes a government establishment of religion, I think they are nuts, and that’s putting it charitably.

      The big problem here, though, is that the federal government is now involved in nearly EVERYTHING. This was never supposed to be the case, according to the Constitution, which spelled out a strictly limited role of the federal government.

      • Kathy

        Thank you! You just said everything I was dying to say much more politely than I would have said it!!! God bless!

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          Thank you Kathy!

      • Kate

        So you won’t mind when the Wiccans show up with their signs and placards too?

  • Grace T.

    Can you post a link to their Face Book page so we can give them some support?
    Can’t find them, strangely enough, considering they have tens of thousands of fans.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I’ll see if I can find something Grace.

  • Proteios1

    Freedom from reason foundation..a better name for these atheist with such a blind rage against Christianity that they threaten, sue and generally bully anyone displaying Christian values. Somehow we managed to survive over 200 years inculcated with Christianity. Ironic that now the atheists want to take over and bankrupt us of free thought and force religion into private underground venues. Also, notice they are almost specific to Christianity. It should be FFCF as their specific hate is against Christianity.

  • Cletus

    But…but…but this is about scripture verses painted on a run-through; the run-through, and thus the scriptures, are ripped apart and stomped on.

  • Wills

    Cletus–that is a reason azprudent person might not want to do it. It is not a reason for government to forbid it.

  • http://www.rosariesforlife.com Dave

    Here’s a quote from a talk Anton Scalia gave recently:

    “Our constitutional law has been greatly distorted. [The notion that] our Constitution forbids anything that favors religion over non-religion is a lie.”

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I think he’s right. Thanks for sharing this.

  • http://stevenjeffries.wordpress.com Steven Jeffries

    It really saddens me when I see and hear of “protection” of religious freedoms in America, when the truth is, almost every kind of worshiper gets respect EXCEPT those who follow Christ! And we insist we are a Christian nation…

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Amen.

    • Erik Petersen

      “And we insist we are a Christian nation…”

      It’s funny you should say that, because, in actuality, we are in no way a Christian nation. Our government was actually founded on the secular principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Now, I’m not saying that one’s personal religion can’t possibly coincide with these principles, not at all. I would argue most Christians find their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness through their belief in Christ. What I am arguing is that these principles are not inherently religious in nature; they exist and hold true and are worthy aspirations regardless of religion. Any question to whether or not our nation was founded on religious principles was answered by James Madison in the Treaty of Tripoli in 1797, when he wrote, “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion….” We have separation of church and state in this country, it’s guaranteed in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Period. Now, as for this specific instance, there are a few things we must understand. First, to address the FFRF’s involvement, as Ashley stated in the first comment, they do not go looking for cases to take to court. That’s not how they work, not to mention they are too busy as it is to actively go looking for cases. Instead, they have a submission form on their website along with telephone lines and, of course, traditional mail that allows citizens to have a forum in which they can communicate and lodge complaints with the FFRF about a particular issue. The FFRF’s involvement in this Texas school district is almost certainly because a citizen that is either directly or indirectly involved in the school district filed a complaint with them. Another thing to understand is that an instance of a student wearing a religious symbol or emblem to school or praying quietly to themselves or with friends is perfectly acceptable. The issue that the FFRF has is the signs. At an athletic event, cheerleaders are official school representatives, and must conduct themselves as such. At my school system in TN (I am a high school teacher), our cheerleaders are required to sign a form, along with their parents if under the age of 18, stating that they will conduct themselves as representatives of the school and the school district. As school representatives, they cannot endorse any one religion. It is not that they cannot express their faith, it is that they cannot set one religion above any other. Not every student at their school is Christian, and by placing Biblical verses on their signs, they are endorsing Christianity. The result of this is the perception “we support our football players, provided they believe what we do.” It’s an “us” and “them” mentality, and it is divisive in nature. That is the core of the issue. Divisiveness. Division. Our public education systems should be about synergy and cohesion, not division and solitude among varying ideas and faiths.

  • Kate

    I agree. Great explanation.


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