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Texas cheerleaders go to court for the right to display Bible verses at high school football games

October 18, 2012 - Andrea Johnson
I don't generally associate cheerleaders with the word of God, but apparently things are done differently in Texas.

Teenage cheerleaders at Texas's Kountze High School have created handwritten banners they display at the public high school's football games with messages such as "If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31" and "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens! Phil 4:13" and "But thanks be to God which gives us Victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor 15:57". Predictably enough, a Wisconsin-based atheist group called the Freedom from Religion Foundation complained when they heard about it from a town resident who doesn't believe in God and wants to remain anonymous out of fear of being ostracized by neighbors for complaining. The foundation claims the banners violate the First Amendment protections preventing the government from establishing a religion.

In response to the complaint, the Kountze school district told the cheerleaders they have to stop displaying banners with a religious message. The cheerleaders from the small East Texas town promptly went to court, claiming the school's actions infringe on their right to freedom of speech. NBC News reported that a judge granted the cheerleaders an injunction Thursday that will let the cheerleaders display the banners for the rest of the football season. The case will go to trial next June. The Texas Attorney General filed papers to intervene in the case on the side of the cheerleaders and Texas Gov. Rick Perry also expressed support.

According to the Associated Press, Perry had this to say on the subject:

"Anyone who is expressing their faith should be celebrated, from my perspective, in this day and age of instant gratification, this me-first culture that we see all too often. We're a nation built on the concept of free expression of ideas. We're also a culture built on the concept that the original law is God's law, outlined in the Ten Commandments."

I agree to a point with supporters of the cheerleaders. I believe in God but I think He probably has better things to do than worry about which team wins a high school football game. I would likely find the banners too aggressively in your face and a bit on the obnoxious side. However, I do believe all forms of expression should be zealously defended, including those I find annoying.

Contrary to some, I don't think separation of church and state includes the right not to be proselytized to or exposed to the religious views of others in the public square. The flip side of that is that Wiccans or Muslims or Jews or Buddhists or atheists must have an equal right to create their own handwritten banners and display them at high school football games or air their views at high school graduations. Granted, in the heart of the Bible Belt it would take a mightily brave teenager to do such a thing. I just hope the good governor would be equally as strong in his defense of an atheist cheerleader who wanted to write "You don't need God to be good" on a handwritten banner.

I also think Perry is a bit foggy on his historical details when it comes to the founding of the United States of America. Many of the Founding Fathers were Deists, not strictly orthodox Christians, and the principles the country was founded upon probably bear a greater resemblance to Age of Enlightenment values than they do to the Bible. But it may be expecting too much for him to remember that this close to the election.


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