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.
“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?