Cheerleading is a big deal in Texas. It’s the sort of thing that can get you killed if you’re not careful.
So when a bunch of high school cheerleaders started cheering less “Be Aggressive!” and more “Be Not Afraid, the Lord Is With Thee,” it stirred up the usual hornets’ nest of grandstanding atheists and civil libertarians complaining about freedom of religion, and an equal number of grandstanding conservative politicos complaining about the “War on Christians.”
Yesterday, the cheerleaders won their case — at least for now — opening the door to a new batch of inspirational cheers ripped from Christian Mingle ads. After looking at the signs (some pics below), the real issue is not constitutional, but practical: these are just terrible cheers….
Backing up a bit, this whole thing went down in tiny Kountze, Texas, population 2,115. Earlier this year, the cheerleaders decided to create “run through” banners for the football team emblazoned with religious phrases.
One sign read, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The answer, as it turns out, is: Woodville, Newton, East Chambers, Kirbyville, and Anahuac. With a 2-5 record in their district last year, apparently God is usually not for Kountze.
That sign is not overly religious. But others, like:
go a bit further toward overt proselytizing. I’m betting “victory” and “strengthens” have different meanings in their original religious context than winning on the gridiron.
The school district banned the religious signs and the cheerleaders sued. Everyone from both sides of the aisle glommed on, including Governor Rick Perry and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. Abbott even filed court papers seeking to intervene on behalf of the cheerleaders. Because Greg Abbott wants to be governor.
Yesterday, State District Judge Steven Thomas ruled that:
Neither the Establishment Clause nor any other law prohibits the cheerleaders from using religious-themed banners at school sporting events. Neither the Establishment Clause nor any other law requires Kountze I.S.D. to prohibit the inclusion of religious-themed banners at school sporting events.
Several Supreme Court decisions disagree with Judge Thomas, but whatever.
Some argue that this behavior is not just a technical violation of the Establishment Clause, but has a real, tangible exclusionary effect.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s co-president, Annie Laurie Gaylor, was disappointed with the ruling, saying the banners “carry the appearance of school endorsement and favoritism, turning Christians into insiders and non-Christians and nonbelievers into outsiders.”
But that’s a ludicrous claim:
“The one parent that did complain,” said football player Caleb Darby, “if you don’t like it don’t come to our games. That’s how I feel away about it.”
Way to shoot down the exclusion argument.
But putting aside the culture of religious exclusion and the decades of Supreme Court precedent, what’s the point of these signs from a cheering perspective? Invoking God and then losing seems more disrespectful because it simultaneously demeans an omnipotent deity by asking for intervention in a football game and then undermines that omnipotence when He’s not able to make a Him-damned 30-yard field goal. Laces out, Jesus!
If you’ve got to quote the Bible at a football game, at least find something cool. Like Revelation 6:8: “And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him” or the (famously misquoted) Ezekiel 25:17: “And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.”
See, that would be cool and I’d gladly write an amicus brief on the cheerleaders behalf.
The complete order is on the next page….