Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bible verses move from Ga. football field to stands, where they enjoy clear constitutional protection

Cheerleaders at Fort Oglethorpe High School in Georgia carried banners displaying Christian messages and Bible verses for eight years before concerns about the legality of the practice led the county school board to order the cheerleaders to stop. But those banners and signs are still present at the football games: in the stands, not on the field, Mark Andrews of the Catoosa County News reports. (Times photo by David Walter Banks)

"Calling themselves Warriors for Christ, a twist on the teams' name, fans have held rallies at churches and a local polo field and sold more than 1,600 T-shirts bearing passages from Deuteronomy and Timothy," Robbie Brown of The New York Times writes. Federal courts have ruled students can promote their faith, but not in school-sponsored clubs, and constitutional experts told Brown that the cheerleaders' signs would have been a violation of those rulings. "The backlash demonstrates the difficulty of separating church and state in communities, especially in the South, where many prefer the two merged," Brown writes, in a vague overstatement that should have been edited out (or not edited in).

The parent who raised concerns says she wasn't complaining about the signs, just telling the school they could be sued for supporting the practice. One of the cheerleaders told Brown that the ban had put a damper on her senior year, but some Christians said the controversy and the outpouring of personal messages and signs from fans have brought the Christian message to many who wouldn't have hear it before, one parent says. Charles C. Haynes of The First Amendment Center in Washington, D.C., says the signs prove “that Jefferson and Madison got it right. It’s a reminder of the difference between religion that’s state-sponsored and religion that is vital, voluntary and robust.” (Read more)

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