Catoosa County in far northwest Georgia has become the site of the latest skirmish in the war over religion in public schools.
For six years or so, cheerleaders at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School have painted elaborate paper banners, adorned with Bible verses, through which football players have dashed at the outset of games.
For instance, recently, from Philippians 3:14: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me in Christ Jesus.”
After receiving a complaint, the Catoosa County school system cracked down. Reported the Chattanooga Times Free Press:
A school system statement released Monday said the message constitutes “a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution for signs with Bible verses to be displayed on the football field.”
Those offended included the Rev. Brad Scott, a Republican activist who was LFO High’s class president in 2004 — and who sent us the above photo, plus some others. A Facebook page has been established.
Several hundred protestors gathered last night. According, again, to the Times Free Press:
State Rep. Jay Neal, R-LaFayette, challenged the crowd to bring religious signs Friday night to put up in an area designated for the displays outside the school’s football stadium. And Rep. Neal urged people to display them in the stands as citizens and supporters of the LFO cheerleaders and football team.
“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,” Mr. Neal said.
School Superintendent Denia Reese has defended herself:
“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,” Mrs. Reese stated Monday in a release.
The incident has attracted the attention of Bill Nigut, southeast regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, who sent Reese a letter of support.
Read the entire message here, but this is the gist:
The Anti-Defamation League commends you for making the hard decision to uphold the First Amendment to the Constitution by banning the traditional practice of cheerleaders displaying religious messages on signs at the football games. We recognize that this has created controversy in your community; however, we believe you have done the right thing….
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.
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