Jesus in the bleachers: Why sis-boom-bah and the Bible don’t mix at football games

021210_Bible_In_School_TNCH (Small)

Tuesday's rally in Catoosa County for the Bible-verse carrrying cheerleaders drew 500 supporters. AP Photo/The Chattanooga Times Free Press, Dan Henry

Why does the church-state issue continue to crop up in public schools?

The latest flare-up is here in Catoosa County where the Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School cheerleaders turned to God when nothing else seemed to be helping their football team.

The cheerleaders created banners with Bible verses to change the fortunes of the team and displayed them during the football games. The banners are the sort that the players crash through as they enter the field and include such biblical verses as “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

“The cheerleaders are not trying to push a religious cause, to shove religion down someone’s throat,” said youth minister Brad Scott to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “The cheerleaders are just using scripture to show motivation and inspiration to the players and the fans.”

Apparently the cheerleaders have sought divine intervention through the banners since 2003 with the approval of the then football coach, but a complaint was only recently filed with Superintendent Denia Reese.  Now, the banners are out.

“Personally, I appreciate this expression of their Christian values. However, as superintendent I have the responsibility of protecting the school district from legal action by groups who do not support their beliefs,” said Reese in a press statement.

As you might expect, the decision has rankled some people in Catoosa. A rally was held last night to protest the decision.

Among those entering the fray on the side of the cheerleaders is state Rep. Jay Neal, who told the rally crowd,  “Our Founding Fathers had one thing in mind when they founded this country, and it was a Christian nation built upon the principles of Jesus Christ.”

Neal apparently hasn’t checked with the U.S  Supreme Court, which spoke to this issue in a 2000 decision that grew out of student-led prayers over the loud speaker at football games in Santa Fe, Texas

There are legal ways for students to gather for prayer, but this isn’t one of them, according to the Supreme Court.

The court ruled the prayers illegal because school authorities had made religious conformity the price of attending school athletic events. The court concluded that the district’s public prayer policy  delivered a dangerous message that non-believers ”are outsiders” in the community and “encourages divisiveness along religious lines of a public school setting.”

Superintendent Reese has the support of the Anti-Defamation League, which sent her a letter today commending her for upholding the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Written by ADL Southeast Regional Director Bill Nigut, the letter states in part:

ADL believes deeply in the importance of safeguarding freedom of religion in our increasingly pluralistic nation. This position is not one of hostility toward religion; rather, it reflects a profound respect for religious freedom and recognition of the extraordinary diversity of religions represented by the students and staff in our public schools. It is essential that high school sports programs keep in mind that the children entrusted to your care likely have widely divergent religious points of view.  Your decision shows respect for this diversity.

Of course students have the right to individually express their religious beliefs and it is commendable that you have sought out alternatives that can meet the needs of your students and stay within the principles of the First Amendment.

Can we all say “amen” to that?


I didn’t think so.

316 comments Add your comment

Dunwoody Mom

September 30th, 2009
4:38 pm

Someone does not know our country’s history either. Our founding father’s were very clear in their believes in the separation of church and state. In fact, there are no terms relative to Christianity at all in the Consitution. Might I suggest for their reading “Founding Brothers” by Joseph Ellis.


September 30th, 2009
4:47 pm

What ever happened to freedom of religion? If the cheerleaders wanted to put bible verses on banners they should be allowed to. This country was founded on freedom of religion. So taking away there right to express themselves is wrong. Of course that is just my opinion. If someone from another religion expressed themselves on banners and wrote positive scriptures on them I wouldn’t care. Just as long as the message is positive. Again just my opinion.

Gary Hart

September 30th, 2009
5:29 pm

Geez MD–you allowed the words penetration, climax, thressomes and foreplay on the student sex blog. What was wrong with my Beta Club joke?

jim d

September 30th, 2009
5:43 pm


you can say amen you may say anything you wish. the problem with this one was stated very clearly in the article.

“Apparently the cheerleaders have sought divine intervention through the banners since 2003 at the instruction of the football coach,” emphasis on WHO gave the instruction. A school employee may not do this. The law is quite clear on this issue.


September 30th, 2009
5:45 pm

Oh, this one is quite precarious. The students actually do have a right to free expression and the Supreme Court has upheld that right, too. While student led prayers may be overt, printed Bible verses do not require participation. Even though this may be a school sanctioned event, the use of Bible verses on the part of the cheerleaders may tread on their individual rights. The coach, however, crossed a boundary if he directed them to use scripture texts. He is an agent of the state and the court has clearly defined that role.

Now, as a Christian, I am offended that scriptures and prayer have been trivialized by this kind of use – football game fight slogans! Jesus gave very clear instructions to His disciples about prayer (enter into your closet and pray in secret) and response to government (render unto Caesar…). I have a personal distaste for those who distort the acts of personal faith in ways like this, and then stir up a controversy that defames the beliefs they claim to espouse.

V for Vendetta

September 30th, 2009
6:11 pm

Hanie, you would be wise to heed Dunwoody Mom’s comment. I’m shocked, though not altogether surprised, by Rep. Neal’s misunderstanding of our country’s history. I can’t believe he would utter such nonsense:

“Rep. Jay Neal, who told the rally crowd, ‘Our Founding Fathers had one thing in mind when they founded this country, and it was a Christian nation built upon the principles off [sic] Jesus Christ.’”

Sorry, Mr. Neal, but that’s completely untrue. From John Adams:

“As the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion . . .”

“The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation.”
-quotes from The Treaty of Tripoli

From Benjamin Franklin:

“I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life I absented myself from Christian assemblies.”

“Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.”

From Thomas Jefferson:

“Erecting the ‘wall of separation between church and state,’ therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.”

It is amazing to me how many people believe in this nonsense of a Christian nation. Apparently our own elected officials are unclear in regards to this matter. I find that quite troublesome. We have allowed religious dogma to usurp common sense for far too long. It is time that logic and reason once again become the means by which our country is guided. After all, as bad as socialism is, a theocracy is far, far worse.

Maureen Downey

September 30th, 2009
6:12 pm

To clarify, the Chattanooga paper reports that the coach who gave his blessing to the signs back in 2003 is now with another school. The paper reported that current head football coach Todd Windham said the school system must obey the law, despite everyone’s opinions. “Just my standpoint, I thought the banners were unique,” Mr. Windham said. “I really feel for the girls who prepare the banners and I think they really do a good job. They prepare a whole season’s worth during the summer and they put in a lot of work on those.”


September 30th, 2009
6:16 pm

Who wrote this article? I do not see it attributed to anyone, and I find if v e r y opinionated. In any event, I find the assertion that the founding fathers did not base the base documents upon Christian principals unintelligent. They did, and there is no historical debate to this and the strong consensus of historical scholars hold to this position. However, I do think it is not appropriate. As a Christian, and a very strong, conservative one, it is probably better judgement to not use banners. If they wanted to pray beforehand, that would be appropriate. Further, for the ADL to get involved is just silly. This is not a move to defame any faith, and to even get involved seems to be making much to do about nothing. One final note: what bothers me most about this whole thing is the Federal government trying to dictate to these students what they can & cant do. We need to curb the encroachment of the power-hungry dictators in DC.


September 30th, 2009
6:23 pm

Bet if the school caught fire & there were children trapped inside…….there would appeals for Devine intervention……even from big LIBs.

Maureen Downey

September 30th, 2009
6:27 pm

Actually, as the daughter of a firefighter, I would appeal to the fire department.


September 30th, 2009
6:27 pm

My bad, I see the attribution now. In any event, the quotes provided above by V are out of context. 1. Adams is simply establishing that the Christian faith is not endorsed by the government. I agree with Adams. 2. The treaty of Tripoli was with a Muslim government and the statement is in the context of working to make peace with this nation, not to reflect upon motivations of the founding fathers or the culture of the time. 3. Franklin was not a Christian, and I conceed that. His statement is not relevant to the intent of the Founders to limit Christian expression (or any other expression). 4. Jefferson is making Adam’s point above – no sanctioned government.

There is so much evidence that the Founders would not have wanted to limit personal expression on religion, that it is unnecessary to hammer the point home for any reasonable person. V, you should study history and not misquote or take others out of context, including me.

V for Vendetta

September 30th, 2009
6:31 pm


Christian principles are one thing, a Christian NATION is quite another. Of course, having good morals or principles is not a phenomenon unique to Christians.


Perhaps, though I bet they would know how to spell Divine . . . even the big LIBs.

Maureen's accountability metric

September 30th, 2009
6:36 pm

Speaking of religion, from Maureen earlier today

“When we received the letter that he was nearing the point of suspension, we went bonkers and introduced a Marine-style regimen to his mornings, beginning with an occasional bugle wake-up by my trumpet-playing husband.”

So Maureen, when you yourself were confronted with a chronically disruptive child, you didn’t blame yourself for not making the morning routine more “engaging” or “relevant” or or in other ways find the primary fault was with you for not making the morning routine so “interesting” that your child would just naturally want to comply?

Apparently not, because by your own words when you received the letter that your child was nearing the point of suspension, you “went bonkers and introduced a Marine-style regimen to his mornings…”.

Yet when a teacher is confronted by a chronically and unlike yours, even severely disruptive child and, also unlike you, has to also manage 20 or more other children at the same time, you can’t preach what you’ve admitted you practiced and advocate the teacher be given the authority to exercise a stronger hand?

Does that not sound a bit conflicted?

And speaking of conflicted and religion, did you by any chance go to a Catholic school as a child, as thereby still harbor a resentment toward any teacher who would exercise a firm hand in discipline, even though you clearly admit its efficacy when it came to your own chronically disruptive child?

Maybe you didn’t go to Catholic schools as a child, but something has to explain your basically inexplicable contention that lack of support for teachers isn’t a “pressing” issue.

V for Vendetta

September 30th, 2009
6:37 pm

Thanks, boots. I have studied history quite extensively, and I don’t believe those quotes are out of context. Obviously, since I cited the source document, I am familiar with how Adams used the quote in the Treaty of Tripoli. I think his quotes illustrate the point that America is NOT a Christian nation. As I’ve previously said, I support the claim that the Founding Fathers had Christian ideals. (Though I find it funny that Christians claim Jefferson as one of their own. Perhaps they’ve never heard of the Jeffersonian Bible, in which Jefferson omitted Jesus’ miracles in order to make him appear as more of a philosopher, not a direct link to divinity.)

By the way, boots, when did I quote you out of context?


September 30th, 2009
6:46 pm

Do we really need to pray to God for touchdowns? Really! I would be more impressed with their Christian values if the cheerleaders spend their time volunteering at hospitals, schools and nursing homes, not making “Christian Banners” so their team could win.


September 30th, 2009
6:51 pm

Cheerleading, which is sponsored by the school, should not be allowed the squad to promote any particular religion over the other. would it be the same if they quoted passages from the Torah for inspiration?

V for Vendetta

September 30th, 2009
6:53 pm


Haha! What about he Koran? I would have loved to see the reaction that would have gotten.


September 30th, 2009
6:53 pm

I did what Thomas Jefferson did. I created my very own Bible. I, like Jefferson, used a pair of scissors to chop out the parts I don’t believe in.

One thing I did keep in my edited Bible was the part about public prayer. Jesus hates public prayer. In fact he wants us to keep our faith private. Its amazing how something so amazingly simple can be ignored by the loudest Christians. Where do you all come up with all these phony waivers?

As a Christian nation I demand that the Christians in this country open up their own Bibles, and stop skipping over the parts they don’t like. The next Christian law enacted should be a ban on any type of public prayer or display of the Christian religion. Its in the Bible. Public prayer is a choice, its also a sin. You can’t love the sin and love the sinner.



September 30th, 2009
6:58 pm

The coach who started this is now at Silverdale Baptist. His email is at this website:


September 30th, 2009
7:01 pm

Nice to see the tradition has continued at Coach Allen’s new school. The signs are very similar:


September 30th, 2009
7:41 pm

God did not write the bible men did! With so many different religions who’s to say Christianity is the right one?? who’s to say any are right men wrote them NOT GOD. If someone said God spoke to them today they would get put in a mental institution. They can protest all they want. There is something called separation of church and state and it is a public school. I’m sure everyone there is not Christian. Brainwashing starts at a early age. These girls are obviously brainwashed and need to open their science books. They need to open a lot of books and leave the bible closed. After being told those verses over and over 16-18 years who wouldn’t believe them. That is unless they were smart Oh wait their cheerleaders my bad….


September 30th, 2009
7:43 pm

The signs are both lawful and good.

No one complained, either. That is a fabrication by the school superintendent to deflect criticism off of her. The person who called wanted to make sure everything was done to make sure there couldn’t be a lawsuit. Her concern was protection of the students and teachers, NOT a complaint to try and coerce the school system into violating the cheerleaders’ God-given and constitutionally guaranteed right to freely express their Christian faith by writing inspirational Bible verses on a big piece of paper.

To deny the Christianity of the Founders and the Christian purposes and foundations of our government and laws is one of the most ignorant positions a person could take. Seriously, the historical evidence is massively overwhelming.

You may not like that and wish it weren’t so and try to change it, but to deny it is just plain stupid.


September 30th, 2009
7:47 pm

Photo credit? Has the AJC sunk so low that they must now lift the intellecual property of the Chattanooga paper without giving them credit?


September 30th, 2009
7:59 pm


September 30th, 2009
8:05 pm

Silly Protestants.

They get what they deserve.


September 30th, 2009
8:19 pm

Ah, I see. So, God was sleeping while Christian George W Bush exterminated tens of thousands Iraqi citizens, but now that he’s awake, he’s going to take on the all-important task of high school football.


September 30th, 2009
8:33 pm

I find the lack of reading comprehension skills on this blog, although typical in today’s world, rather sad. The person who not only lacks the ability to comprehend the written word but also lacks the basic computing skills to copy/paste a “quote” is especially sad. Or did jim b deliberately misquote the article in a poor attempt to make some sort of contrived point? Hey jim b, there is a HUGE difference in the words approval and instruction. How you got “instructed” from the writers use of the word “approval” is beyond me. As such jim b, the “problem” obviously was NOT “clearly stated in the article” as you suggested with your botched quote. Try reading and copying the black parts next time, not rewriting the article in your post.

boots: How was this blog “v e r y opinionated?” After reading it, I could not tell which side of the fence the author comes down on. She attributed quotes both for and against from more than one source, including; A US Supreme Court decision, A US Congressman, The School District Superintendant, a Baptist pastor, and far leftist activist Bill Nigut. Nowhere did I see the author give an opinion. I have to admit I am shocked to say that lol. I expected to find a piece very biased one way or the other when I saw the title on the AJC home page but was pleased to find an article that basically just gave the facts, just like in the good old days, when papers employed journalists to report the news instead of the commentators of today’s media who seem to think we need the “news’ interpreted, and done so along their personal viewpoint.

Maureen Downey

September 30th, 2009
8:34 pm

Jimmy, good point. I will track down photo credit and add

Tim Tebow

September 30th, 2009
8:41 pm

It was I, Tim Tebow, that called the super. I got dibs on God for the next three months, and I’m not gonna share. Pray to Buddah, b####s!


September 30th, 2009
8:42 pm

Just another incident to where if you are a Christian and say so publicly, you come under attack or scrutinized as an outsider. Keep your heads up ladies!! We have to get back to the concept of a power greater than ourselves(HP..Higher Power) will restore this nation and the ills we are currently facing. That’s what I believe the Founding Fathers meant. We must consult some divine being to make sure we are making the right decisions for the nation rather than political party agendas.

Tim Teeball

September 30th, 2009
8:49 pm

“Someone does not know our country’s history either. Our founding father’s were very clear in their believes in the separation of church and state. In fact, there are no terms relative to Christianity at all in the Consitution.

The Christian God still has a huge presence in American gov’t. Ever noticed “In God We Trust” on all money produced? Congress still opens sessions with prayer to the Christian God. Ever read the Pledge of Allegiance? (One Nation, Under God) And here’s the end of the Constitution:

“Done in convention by the unanimous consent of the states present the seventeenth day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven and of the independence of the United States of America the twelfth.”

The Founding Fathers are rolling in their graves though. America becoming the United States
of Israel isn’t sitting too well with them.

Maureen Downey

September 30th, 2009
8:51 pm

Fred, To be fair to Jim d, I rewrote this blog entry several times this afternoon as I obtained more information. So, Jim was responding to an earlier version. I often edit myself and I need to make note of that in view of comments that may reflect earlier versions. I am sorry.
I can’t say anything about Boots. His/her comments will have to stand on their own.


September 30th, 2009
8:53 pm

A noodley appendage of the Flying Spaghetti Monster will pull the feet right out from under a running-back. So it was said and heard, written and read, on this day.


September 30th, 2009
9:05 pm

First and foremost, the thought of using religion as a goad to win a football game is offensive. Do people REALLY believe that God – in whatever form you might choose to acknowledge him/her/it – CARES about the results of a high school football game, or ANY game, for that matter? This trivialization of religion is appalling, not to MENTION the basic theological problems associated with an intellectually honest Christian presuming that God favors ONE set of His children over another. How about we return religion to what it should be – an attempt by man to understand the ineffable and unknowable. This…Kentucky Fried Chicken version is nauseating and pathetic.

Oh…and you people rambling about the Founding Fathers should look up the phrase “Ceremonial Deism”. REAL history is your friend, not the garbage that fundy apologists manufacture.


September 30th, 2009
9:06 pm

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof……

The “separation of church and state” metaphor is not mentioned in the Constitution and is not law – anywhere. This country was founded by Christians. We have references to Bible quotes and Christian theism in several “public”, government buildings throughout this country. “In God We Trust” is printed on our money and can be found in plaques in the capital building. We say “under God” when we recite the Pledge of Allegiance. We even have chaplains on the public payroll in local, state, and federal levels of government. The Liberty Bell has a Bible verse engraved on it. Christmas (the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ) is a federal holiday.

These girls are not trying to establish a religion nor force anyone to profess allegiance to Christianity. They are expressing their First Amendment right of free speech.

Tim Tebow

September 30th, 2009
9:10 pm

What?? God doesn’t care about football?? Does Ra? Does Zeus? Help me, Jeebus!!


September 30th, 2009
9:18 pm

“The “separation of church and state” metaphor is not mentioned in the Constitution and is not law – anywhere.”

False. There are several kinds of law, one of which is common law. Common law is that law which is determined by court precedent and judicial decisions. Judicial precedent long ago established the separation of church and state. And before you start ignorantly bleating about “activist judges”, Common law was built into our judicial system, based on the Common law system that existed in England long before the Colonies rebelled.


September 30th, 2009
9:22 pm

The girls are promoting a religion using a public-school sponsored organization at a public-school sponsored event. The Catoosa County taxpayers can’t choose not to fund the school system if they don’t support Christianity, unless they prefer jail. That’s the difference here. If that’s a private school, no problem. My old private school said benedictions every school day and before every event. But why should a Buddhist or Jewish family’s money go to help support a religion they don’t believe in?

Bob Dobb

September 30th, 2009
9:23 pm

I’ll put all of hooey in my pipe and smoke it.

V for Vendetta

September 30th, 2009
9:30 pm


“Just another incident to [sic] where if you are a Christian and say so publicly, you come under attack or [are] scrutinized as an outsider.”

Are you serious? As a proud and unapologetic Atheist, I can barely get the word out of my mouth before I am witnessed to by hoards of Christian apologists claiming everything from my eternal salvation to eternal damnation. (Heck, I really don’t know where I’m going these days, to be honest. Depending on who I’m talking to, it seems to change by the minute.)

“We must consult some divine being to make sure we are making the right decisions for the nation . . .”

To be frank, comments like that scare the he11 out of me. I have a novel idea: How about consulting reason, logic, science, and history? I agree with your assessment of the political parties–I’ll grant you that–but the idea that some mystical and unknowable supreme being can (or should) lead us in the right direction is simply absurd. Why do you so willingly surrender your own intelligence? Why do you subjugate yourself before something of which you really know absolutely nothing–yet claim to know everything? It amazes me that people have so little respect for themselves. A few quotes to consider:

“Ask yourself whether the dream of heaven and greatness should be left waiting for us in our graves—or whether it should be ours here and now on this earth.”
from Atlas Shrugged

“I need no warrant for being, and no word of sanction upon my being. I am the warrant and the sanction.”
from Anthem


September 30th, 2009
9:30 pm

Okay, Tacky…

Why then is Christianity so prevalent in our government institutions/buildings? And, please cite the case law (common law) that prohibits cheerleaders from displaying banners containing Bible quotes.

Fly like a Eagle

September 30th, 2009
9:33 pm

For all of you non-believers and who dare blaspheme God’s Holy Word, may you confess your sins and ask the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive you and save your soul before it is eternally too late.


September 30th, 2009
9:38 pm

It’s all about intimidation. What if there was a Jewish kid on that football team? What if they asked him to kneel and bow his head during a pre-game prayer that mentioned Christ? Would the kid feel like he had to? Would you want him to feel that intimidation? Would you want him to feel bad about his family and his religious heritage?


September 30th, 2009
9:43 pm

Catoosa County is also the only place I’ve gone in the past 15 years where they insist on having a prayer over the public address system before a high school football game. Every other school in northwest Georgia is obeying the Constitution while Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe and Ringgold teach their students that they don’t have to obey the rule of law in this country. I am a Christian but am appalled at this practice every time the high school my children have attended has had to visit Catoosa County.


September 30th, 2009
9:44 pm

Well said, Vendetta. And based on what I’ve seen out of our so-called American ‘Christians’ over the past decade- they can have it.

Judge/demean anybody who doesn’t see it their way?

Pack their little self righteous churches on Sunday, but then badmouth Jesus like liberalism all week?

Puff out your chest and bomb?

Sign up for big business’ anti-government movement so you don’t have to pay for the poor?

Band together to hunt ‘illegals’? Call God’s children ‘illegal’ in the first place?

Nooooooooo thanks.

Seriously though, we all know the ‘American Christians’ ceased being actual Christians when they laid on their back for the Republican party.


September 30th, 2009
9:45 pm

I am not a historian but I am a Christian and I believe that we are a “Christian Nation.” Not a Theocracy such as the country from which we took our Freedom many years ago but a free, religious and tolerant nation founded on Judeo-Christian values as illustrated in these two articles:


September 30th, 2009
9:45 pm

Since they can’t make signs with Bible verses, how about: “Recall our Superintendent”, or “In case of Rapture, Maureen we’ll miss you when we’re gone” or “Thanks AJC for letting people make fun of Christians one more time” The last one was a little wordy….

bleacher bum

September 30th, 2009
9:55 pm

KMan is practicing peace and Christian love.

Seriously, dude, who are you to judge anyone? People like you give religion a bad name because you use your religion to hate others.


September 30th, 2009
10:00 pm

Do they force you to pray, John? Are you also against reciting the Pledge of Allegiance? Congress has a chaplain (on the public payroll) that opens each session with a prayer.

And Bubba….please explain how a banner with a Bible quote is intimidating. Nobody is asking anyone to kneel or bow – and no one is offending any other religion.


September 30th, 2009
10:16 pm

Murph, you just don’t get it do you? Read again what I wrote, put yourself back in High School and run in my cleats. That was my experience and it was intimidating.