Are Biblical banners at football games free speech or school-sponsored religion?

Is it private speech or school-sponsored religion if a public high school football team bursts through a sign made by the cheerleaders that reads:

“But thanks be to God, which gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Kevin Weldon, the superintendent of the 1,300-student school district in Kountze, Texas, northeast of Houston, banned such signs after a complaint from someone who attended a game.

Weldon is a Christian but based the ban on advice from lawyers and the Supreme Court ruling in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, which established that prayers led by students at high school football games were unconstitutional.

The New York Times:

“After consulting with lawyers, Mr. Weldon banned the district’s cheerleaders from putting Bible verses on the banners they hoist at the beginning of football games, out of concern that the signs were unlawful and amounted to school-sanctioned religious expression. A group of cheerleaders and their parents sued Mr. Weldon and the district, prompting a legal battle that has outraged and inspired Christians across the country. Last week, a judge issued a temporary injunction, barring the district from prohibiting the banners for the rest of the football season while the case proceeds to trial.”

“Mr. Weldon, a Protestant and former football coach, has said he supports the cheerleaders and their message, but feels he must uphold the law. Though he has taken a stand that pleases the Anti-Defamation League and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, he is not their ally. Though his action upset the Liberty Institute, a Christian legal group representing the cheerleaders, he is not their opponent. He is caught somewhere in between….”

“The cheerleaders’ case centers on whether the banners amount to private speech protected by state and federal law, or government-sponsored speech that can be regulated and censored. Lawyers for the students argued that because the cheerleaders created the messages after school without guidance or financial assistance from administrators, their banners were private speech. District lawyers said the banners were in no way akin to someone waving a John 3:16 sign in the stands and could be regulated, because the cheerleaders were school representatives.”

So what do you think: Should the Biblical banners be allowed at games? Is it the students’ free speech or the school promoting a particular religion?

Does your high school have similar banners at sporting events?

76 comments Add your comment

Jake

October 22nd, 2012
1:36 am

No, they should not be able to have those banners are the games. That would be the school favoring a religion which is illegal. Not everybody is Christian and that needs to be respected.

Jake

October 22nd, 2012
1:36 am

at the games**

DB

October 22nd, 2012
1:39 am

I think ANY sign that claims that God will “give” a football team a “victory” because He hears their prayers is inappropriate. What — the other team is sponsored by Satan? Every clash on the football field is a battle between good and evil? If you lose, does that mean that God has turned His face from you? Please . . . I happen to think that praying for a sports victory is rather presumptuous — I’d like to think that the good Lord had more important things to worry about, in the grand scheme of things.

Sorry, but the cheerleaders were out of line. They stood on the field wearing the school uniform and held up the sign as part of the game — that makes it “school sponsored,” and it doesn’t matter how or where the sign was made. The way the laws are interpreted now, it is not permitted. Whether is SHOULD be permitted is another kettle of fish.

My kids went to a private Christian school, so what they did wasn’t subject to rules such as this. Yes, there were banners. Yes, there were prayers, but they were mostly of the “keep the players safe, and watch over the spectators when they leave” sort of thing. Certainly nothing doctrinal. You kinda know what you’re getting into when you pay the tuition, y’know?

jarvis

October 22nd, 2012
7:00 am

@DB, It’s a pretty stupid banner, but cheerleaders are pretty stupid.
Where was the banner displayed? Would they have allowed any other banners?

“Acquire knowledge. It enableth its posessor to distinguish right from wrong; it lighteth the way to Heaven.”

FNR

October 22nd, 2012
7:14 am

@db @jarvis@jake if your doesn’t want to see the banner don’t attend the game your are pretty stupid. Retard like your have taking things so out of context. I’m glad the cheerleader got that victory to post there banner. Wish I was there I would have wave a Jesus sign.

Bob

October 22nd, 2012
7:22 am

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Progress Humanist

October 22nd, 2012
7:42 am

@FNR: It’s always amusing when someone calls other people stupid, but writes like a 6-year-old in the process (”if your doesn’t”, “your are pretty stupid”, Retard like your”, etc.). And your post shows that you either didn’t read the article above or you have very poor reading comprehension. The cheerleaders didn’t get the victory to post “there” [sic] banner; it was banned by the district, as it should have been. Keep myth and ignorance out of schools and leave it where it should be- at FNR’s home.

LaJoy

October 22nd, 2012
8:02 am

Cheerleaders are stupid? My daughter was a high school cheerleader. She graduated in 2012 as an honor graduate, was a member of The National Honor Society and wore 4 honor cords and 2 honor medals around her neck at graduation to signify academic acheivement at a private school. She is now in college making excellent grades. What’s did you say about cheerleaders again?

Metro Coach

October 22nd, 2012
8:08 am

Everybody loves to quote the “no law respecting the establishment of religion,” but they never want to talk about “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” If these were signs about any other religion no one says a word, except maybe Christians, who would then be demonized for being close minded or judgemental. The fact is, the 1st Amendment is a one way street prohibiting the government from establishing a state religion, not to keep religion out of schools, government buildings, etc. As for what the verse means, the phrase “victory in our Lord Jesus Christ” has nothing to do with victory on the playing surface.

Mom of 2

October 22nd, 2012
8:08 am

No, the cheerleaders should not be allowed to put biblical phrases or prayers on the banner the football players run through or on the fence around the field (which they also do). The cheerleaders are representing a public school at the football game, including wearing school uniforms. Therefore, their actions are clearly a public school endorsing a specific religion at a publically attended event. They are assuming that everyone who wants to be a cheerleader, everyone on the football team and everyone attending the football game (both sides) is already a christian or needs to be converted to one. I can only imagine the pressure a non-Christian girl who wants to be a cheerleader feels.

This is no different than the Jackson County schools in Alabama that have the “Bible Man” performing bible lessons and leading prayers to the elementary school kids on public school campuses, Christian prayers on the loudspeaker before each athletic event, the “Our Father” being led at academic award ceremonies on campus among many other blatent displays of the protestant christian religion clearly endorsed by the schools regularly on campus and during school events.

If people are that pumped up about their religion there is a perfectly good outlet for them. It’s called a church. Join one and keep your religion there. If they feel the need to have that much religion in their school – go to a Christian school.

By the way, in Jackson County, Alabama, one of the main stated reasons for keeping religion in the public schools is because without it there would be chaos and immorality. And, yet, 4 or 5 of the very Christian football players on the team felt the need, a couple of weeks ago, to hold one of their fellow players down to the ground – on school property – pull down their pants and shove their “private parts” in the other boy’s face. All those on campus Christian prayers and events don’t seem to be helping the morality of the Christian students…

JW

October 22nd, 2012
8:14 am

Its strange how Bibles are prohibited in public schools, but freely distributed in prisons which are also funded with tax dollars. Maybe if it were the other way around, there wouldn’t be quite the need for prisons?

It appears the messages on the cheerleaders’ banner is very positive, constructive and uplifting, most likely for the benefit of the football players and fans obviously, since this is the whole purpose of cheerleaders. Shamefully, many of the comments here are destructive, degrading and hurtful.

I wonder how many of those who disagree with the display of the banners also carry money in their pockets that say “In God We Trust”?

Lets keep in mind, the cheerleaders are not being forced to do this. They feel the message is a good way to build morale for the team. To build their spirit, hopefully leading to a victory. The banners are not supported or funded by the school district. Do we really need government regulation for games at school now? Kids can drink and smoke, have unprotected sex, drop outta school, live off the system the rest of their lives, and its no big deal. But write a Bible verse on a banner at a football game and citizens go haywire?

A little common sense might actually improve our country for everyone.

Progress Humanist

October 22nd, 2012
8:17 am

Metro Coach- Spoken like a true cult member.

Tom

October 22nd, 2012
8:18 am

As anyone familiar with this type of case knows, the judge incorrectly ruled on this one. Should the parties bringong the complaint choose to escalate the issue, higher courts would ultimately (and correctly) uphold a ban on such banners.

This isn’t rocket science, people.

Mayhem

October 22nd, 2012
8:18 am

Unless it’s a Private Christian School, bible verses SHOULD NOT BE anywhere near a school football/sporting event.

FNR you need some schooling my dear. Perhaps a grammer and/or spelling class would benefit you. Maybe you shouldn’t have dropped out in the 6th grade…

resno2

October 22nd, 2012
8:21 am

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

What if a group of parents got together, made the sign, then gave it to the cheerleaders?

LeeH1

October 22nd, 2012
8:28 am

I’m waiting for the free exercise of religion people to support a change in the sign to read:
“But thanks be to Allah, which gives us victory through his words in the Qur’an and through his Prophet, Mohammed.”

Progress Humanist

October 22nd, 2012
8:37 am

JW- The bible is a terrible moral guide. I would never condone anyone spreading the morality contained therein.

FNR

October 22nd, 2012
8:38 am

@Mayhem your name say it all. Mayhem, I bet you’re one of them unemployed women that sit at a computer all day and post blog. When you should be walking.

Mayhem

October 22nd, 2012
8:45 am

Oh FNR, how sad…….just for the record, I’ve been employed with the same company for over 20 years now……talk to me when you’ve been EMPLOYED for 20 straight years.

And thank you for correctly saying “you’re”. The rest of you “post” is mind boggling…..

JW

October 22nd, 2012
8:46 am

@ProgressHumanist… Thanks you for your input. I’m turning the other cheek, since we apparently disagree. lol

justmy2cents

October 22nd, 2012
8:51 am

Lucky you Mayhem, LOL, you don’t need a job. You’re just supposed to walk. I have to admit I was shocked FNR got the contraction correct.

On topic- No, they shouldn’t have the signs. No, my schools do not have signs like that at their games. I’m with Mom of 2 on this.

godless heathen

October 22nd, 2012
8:53 am

Its strange how Bibles are prohibited in public schools, but freely distributed in prisons which are also funded with tax dollars.

Bibles are prohibited in public schools since when?

DB

October 22nd, 2012
8:55 am

@JW: My husband’s great-great grandmother was on the citizen’s committee in the early 50’s that was instrumental in having “under God” added to the Pledge of Allegiance, so don’t wag your finger at me, m’dear. It was also part of the impetus for adding “In God We Trust” to paper money in 1955 (it was already on the U.S. coinage.) I can remember attending public school in a small town that we lived in for one year that had a Bible teacher come in every Tuesday for an hour to teach Bible. The Jewish students were excused and could go to the library. :-)

In prison, prisoners are not required to attend services for any particular denomination. They can refuse the Bible. The people in the stands, the cheerleaders who may not be Christian or some of the football players, for that matter, may not be practicing Christians, can’t “refuse” the sign. By the same token, I am sick to death of every other religion being “respected” while my own is quietly shunted aside. At my daughter’s preschool (non-denominational), they had a “Winter Solstice Celebration” where the kids sang “This LIttle Light of Mine” with the footnote in the program that it was a “paen to the sun during the darkest part of the winter.” ?!? I asked the head of the preschool that if she wanted to sing “Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun”, that was fine, but try not to take a Christian gospel tune and turn it into some sort of pagan sun worship. :-)

That’s the law. It’s designed to allow EVERYONE to practice their religion freely. Is it a perfect law? No. But it’s the best we’ve got right now.

Progress Humanist

October 22nd, 2012
8:57 am

JW-

It seems the blog ate my original post to you, so I’ll try to restate:

It’s not surprising that bibles are ubiquitous in prisons. Religion has always preyed upon the most downtrodden- the poor, substance abusers, the least educated among us. And prisoners are usually a combination of the three.

I agree that the country would be better off if more people used common sense, like the common sense necessary to see how silly it is to believe that a magical, invisible primate willed the universe into existence through his powers of mental telepathy, only to leave us with an immoral guide (the bible) that condones slavery, murder, etc. and contains fables about things like talking snakes and an ark full of animals that are in contrast to everything we know about reality. Yes, getting some common sense would be a good thing.

resno2

October 22nd, 2012
8:58 am

LeeH1 – if that had been the school tradition for many years, sure, let it stand. And if one person doesn’t like it… tough.

FNR

October 22nd, 2012
8:59 am

@mayhem For the record I have been employed as well for the same agency for 29 years.

@justmy2cents just as it say 2 cents

MeatAndGreet

October 22nd, 2012
9:04 am

While all these anti-Christian rants and policies take place, public schools in Atlanta are actively pushing yoga and Hindu prayers into schools [they call it chanting]. How about that for separation of church [temple] and state?

Sluggo

October 22nd, 2012
9:05 am

I see the phrase ” In God We Trust” on our currency and on the bulk of the issued State of Georgia tags and I hear nothing. However, someone becomes twisted over a banner made by cheerleaders.

justmy2cents

October 22nd, 2012
9:11 am

almost FNR, almost- just as it “says” LOL I think I like this troll

Mayhem

October 22nd, 2012
9:12 am

FRN – the Welfare Agency? Or the Unemployment Agency?

FCM

October 22nd, 2012
9:21 am

People need to get over it…it is freedom of speech and religion. If the team wants to put up a poster saying the team will win based on the FSM (for those who don’t know that is The Flying Spagetti Monster) they should be able to do that too!

Mayhem

October 22nd, 2012
9:26 am

I disagree FCM. Schools are for teaching, churches are for religion.

I’m all for keeping it separate. If you want religion at your school, then seek out a private school. But keep religion out of the public schools. there’s too many religions to be able to teach one. Plus, I don’t want my kids being taught religion when they should be learning math, science, etc…

FCM

October 22nd, 2012
9:31 am

Mayhem…7th grade just studied the 3 major religions of the Midlle East (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism…they spent the most time on Islam!) it is there already.

I told my kids I am tired of apologizing for beilving in Jesus…I am tired of hiding it too. It is part of who I am and I am not going to be in your face but if it relates to a topic sure I will put out there. They do not get all Bible Thumping but they sure don’t tolerate being told they have to hide it. I suppose our praying in a public restaurant bothers you too? Even if it is just at our table.

Besides, Jesus is not worried about HS Football…he has pleanty to work on with the SEC

Condescension does not prove knowledge

October 22nd, 2012
9:34 am

Whether a school (governmental entity) can advocate for, or incorporate the teachings of, one religion vs another is a red herring. Constitutional law rejects such attempts as the establishment of a government religion (like the “Church of England”).

The “cheerleader banner” issue is actually a free speech issue – the free speech rights of the STUDENTS, who are individuals with their own constitutional rights, not school/government actors. Constitutional law upholds such attempts, as the students’ free speech rights do not end at the school house door.

Tom

October 22nd, 2012
9:54 am

But then you have to add in the dimension of whether or not the cheerleaders are acting as ‘agents’ of the public school/system in their official capacity. Could other non-cheerleader students display banners at the game on school property, as the cheerleaders do, without permission or censorship?

Mayhem

October 22nd, 2012
9:57 am

FCM – no, praying in a public restaurant is YOUR choice, and it does not bother me at all. One of the great freedoms on this country is Freedom OF religion, and you are free to practice your faith as you see fit.

northern neighbor

October 22nd, 2012
10:14 am

Religion (and I assume you are referring to Christianity and Judaism) doesn’t ‘prey’ upon the most downtrodden- the poor, substance abusers, the least educated among us, religion helps, comforts, aids, and consoles them.

jarvis

October 22nd, 2012
10:16 am

@metro coach, Did you recognize the verse I posted? If not, Google it, and then let me know if you would be OK with it making an appearance in your stadium.

@LaJoy, I apologize. I meant to say cheerleading is stupid….not cheerleaders.

really?

October 22nd, 2012
10:16 am

I agree Mayhem. Everyone is free to practice, but school is not the place for it. FCM there is a big difference between teaching them about different religions so they are not ignorant and endorsing one at an after-school event.

jarvis

October 22nd, 2012
10:30 am

Those saying it’s OK, and that it is Constituationally protected free speech. You’re wrong.

I’m a Chrsitian, but I’m speaking in facts here. TWG posted the legal precedence banning this Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe. Your denial claim that it is Freedom of Religion is blind as was the judge that imposed the “stay”. The Supreme Court ruling wasn’t even close 6-3 outlawing the student led prayer at ballgames.

It’s fine to say you don’t agree with the Court, but it’s ignorant to say it’s “Unconstitutional” when the people that determine what is Constitutional and what is not, have already stated that Opinion. When wearing a uniform representing the public school, the kids are “agents” of the school and thus representing the government. A group of students in the stands would be completely different.

Mom of Two

October 22nd, 2012
10:49 am

I’m a strong advocate of teaching comparative religion in public schools. Educating is a wonderful thing.

But, that’s completely different from leading Christian prayers and having Christian signs displayed at a public schools. That’s advocating a specific religion to a captive, young audience.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” means that the government will not endorse or push a particular religion (i.e. no prayers in public schools), but the government will also not prohibit citizens from practicing any religion they want on their own (i.e. pray any way you want at the church of your choice).

Because the cheerleaders are in school uniforms at a school sponsored event, it’s clear that the school (and, therefore, government since it’s a public school) is endorsing the Christian religion. That could not be a more clear violation of the establishment clause.

catlady

October 22nd, 2012
11:11 am

I am not in favor of trivializing religious beliefs. Not only is it unconstitutional, but in very poor taste.

Theresa, I think this same thing has been fought lately in NW Georgia-LFO high school, I think.

guest

October 22nd, 2012
11:17 am

Come on people, don’t you know that freedom of speech only goes one way in this country? If they had banners proclaiming abortion is cool, no one would say a word bc they would merely be exercising their freedom of speech. The double standard in this country sickens me.

CC

October 22nd, 2012
11:23 am

The banners should be allowed. Everyone needs to be as tolerant with Christians as they expect us Christians to be of them.

mary

October 22nd, 2012
11:32 am

I am shocked at a lot you that I see post here regularly and with great clarity & judgement have some of the views you’ve displayed today. What did the cheerleaders do that was so wrong to bring out all this hate? They believe in God and it’s their right. I don’t read every sign I see and I certainly don’t let what any sign says have an impact on my life. It’s my choice. Yes, I am a believer although I don’t go to church every Sunday but I don’t throw my beliefs out on you people nor should you. I watched a lot of coverage on this and I honestly don’t see how they have hurt anyone with their banners. We’re all suppose to love one another and treat the other as you would want to be treated. If you’re so adament about it, take your own signs pledging how you don’t believe or whatever you want. It’s called freedom of the people and religion. Just don’t knock others for having faith.

Denise

October 22nd, 2012
11:34 am

I disagree with the law but it is what it is. And I, too, am sick of every other religion being respected in the vein of “tolerance” while Christians are forced to hide our religious beliefs for fear of offending somebody. It ticks me off a lot. I have to say Happy Holidays to not offend by saying Merry Christmas but no one is turning down Christmas bonuses. Whatever. I’ll get off my soapbox before I get a headache.

Mayhem

October 22nd, 2012
11:44 am

@Denise – no one is FORCING you to say Happy Holidays. There is no reason why you cannot say Merry Christmas. If one is offended by that, it’s their problem, not yours.

FCM

October 22nd, 2012
11:48 am

@ really? But as I asked what is to stop another cheerleader from holding a sign that says “But thanks be to FSM, which gives us victory through The Flying Spagetti Monster”? OR “But thanks be to Allah, which gives us victory” or some other thing? I almost wrote Budda but I am trying to reconcile the Buddhist peaceactivist with tackle football :) Just b/c it happens to be a Christian Cheerleader does not mean that other religions could not put up signs. I have often wondered why they don’t.

Thomas Jefferson reflected his frequent speaking theme that the government is not to interfere with religion.[7] The phrase was quoted by the United States Supreme Court first in 1878, and then in a series of cases starting in 1947.[8] The phrase “separation of church and state” itself does not appear in the United States Constitution. The First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The Supreme Court did not consider the question of how this applied to the states until 1947; It was not until the 1980s that the question of school prayer and so forth began to arise…usually from professed atheists.

I would contend that by not allowing these signs and prayers the Government (SCHOOL) is indeed pressing an ideological on the People of the US. They are saying that the view of the non believers is of MORE importance than any other view by allowing that one to prevail.

If I drive down I-75 there could be (I have no idea if it is there now but has been in the past) an anti-abortion sign. That sign offends the pro-choice view so it should be taken down. After all the freedom of speech is being done where those on the government funded Interstate see it. It is the same thing as the cheerleader….the non believers could see it but it neither harmed nor swayed them any more than the pro-life sign does on 75.

FCM

October 22nd, 2012
12:13 pm

@ Denise they do not complain that they get a corporate recognized holiday on 12/25 either…regardless of their beliefs.

Aquagirl

October 22nd, 2012
12:17 pm

It was not until the 1980s that the question of school prayer and so forth began to arise…usually from professed atheists.

Actually many complaints about school sponsored prayers came from Jews, who are dismissed and excluded by prayers directed to someone they consider a false god.

For all the lip service conservative “christians” pay to our Judeo-Christian heritage, they never miss a chance to stomp on the Judeo part. Should we tell Jews to sit down and shaddup because that cheerleader took a whole hour out of her b@@b-jiggling to make sure Jewish kids know they’re in the minority?

Since when did serving Jesus mean acting like an ostentatious a-hole?