High school football in Texas comes close to being a secular religion. Now, true religion has made an appearance at one school's games. A lawsuit is in the backfield.
When cheerleaders at Kountze High School began writing Bible verses on banners, the Freedom From Religion Foundation threatened to sue. School officials responded by banning Scriptures on banners. So the cheerleaders sued, alleging violation of First Amendment rights. A judge is allowing the banners until the lawsuit is tried.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot says the Texas Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act requires school districts to treat voluntary expression of religious views in the same manner as the expression of any other viewpoint. The cheerleaders produced the banners independently, on their own time, using privately funded supplies.
While courts have allowed policies restricting student expression — such as the use of profanity — the Kountze district seems to have overreacted. If students can't write Scripture on a banner, created at their own initiative and their own expense, where does the school draw the line?
“If the majority of the cheerleaders were atheists,” the foundation argues, “would a court support their ‘right' to hold up a banner insulting Christianity or all believers?” But the banners weren't insults directed at atheists. They merely presented a viewpoint with which atheists disagree. Free speech rights shouldn't be curtailed simply because someone else is thin-skinned.
Many traditional sports slogans focus on individual worth and collective achievement. That's also a focus of secular humanism, which many atheists tout as an alternative value system to religious faith. Should Christians argue that they've been “attacked” if banners declare “hustle and heart set us apart” rather than citing God as the source of success?
The First Amendment exists not to suppress expression of faith but to maintain state neutrality toward competing value systems. School officials aren't forcing students to engage in religious expression. So what's the problem?