Feature

Texas cheerleaders: Mixing faith and football

Cheerleaders at Kountze High in East Texas enlisted the help of God with “spirit banners.”

In Texas, “high school football is already a religion,” said Araminta Wordsworth in NationalPost.com.  So it’s hardly surprising that cheerleaders at Kountze High in East Texas would “enlist the aid of God” in support of their team. The cheerleaders decorated their home field with “spirit banners” inscribed with biblical verses, including “I can do all things through Christ.” The players take the field by crashing through a banner that reads, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The Freedom From Religion Foundation threatened to sue, and Kountze’s school superintendent ordered the banners removed. But a state judge blocked enforcement of the school district’s order, and Gov. Rick Perry declared the ruling “a victory for all who cherish our inalienable right to freedom of speech and religious expression.”

Liberal organizations, of course, were outraged, said Jonathan Zimmerman in the Los Angeles Times. “But they’ve got this one wrong.” Yes, the banners were displayed at a school event, but they were made and paid for by the cheerleaders, not the school itself. So this isn’t a church-state case at all. The girls were expressing their own views, and the First Amendment guarantees not only the free expression of religion but the “freedom of speech writ large.” Instead of trying to censor the cheerleaders, liberals should protect “all student speech, no matter how pious—or impious—it might sound.” That’s the sentiment down here in Kountze, said Penna Dexter in ChristianPost.com.The cheerleaders’ Facebook page has 48,000 members, and no one opposes the banners, except a few outsiders who favor “attacks on religious freedom.”

Whose religious freedom? asked Michael Stone in Examiner.com. Clearly, the cheerleaders “want to promote Christianity at public school events.” Cheerleading for the school team “is undeniably a school-sponsored activity,” so this official endorsement of a particular religion is unconstitutional. It’s a growing problem in Texas, said The New York Times in an editorial. The American Civil Liberties Union has found “aggressive championing of Christian beliefs in state classrooms, assemblies, and graduation ceremonies.” Those who object are being cowed by “an atmosphere of intimidation and even fear.” That’s un-American. Even in Texas, “the Constitution does not leave religious freedom up to majority rule.”

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