Monday, September 24, 2012
Religious Banners Allowed at Football Games — For Now
cracking down on school districts in Georgia and Mississippi for what it calls First Amendment violations, the Madison, Wis.-based church-and-state watchdog forced the Kountze Independent School District in southeast Texas to ban the use of red-and-white banners featuring Bible verses through which members of the Kountze High School football team charge when taking the field. The FFRF contacted the district after at least one resident complained about the use of the Bible verses, which change from week to week.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation shows no signs of backing off its efforts to eliminate pregame prayers and other symbols of faith from high school sports. After |
But late last week, a judge issued a temporary restraining order that bars implementation of the ban and allows the school to temporarily continue the tradition. A hearing is slated for Oct. 4, during which both sides in the issue will make their arguments, according to the Associated Press.
Superintendent Kevin Weldon, when asked by parents to justify his decision to ban the signs, cites the 2000 Supreme Court case Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, in which the nation's highest court ruled that student-initiated prayer at football games was unconstitutional. "It is not a personal opinion of mine," Weldon told KHOU-TV. "My personal convictions are that I am a Christian. ... But I'm also a state employee and Kountze ISD representative. And I was advised that such a practice would be in direct violation of United States Supreme Court decisions."
In Kountze, a small town of approximately 2,150 people, faith and football are intertwined. So it's little surprise that residents are fighting back, decorating their vehicle windows with Bible verses to protest the decision. And dozens of students gathered at a home in town last week to paint new
banners and placards to display at middle school and varsity games, according to KHOE. "I'm actually thankful for [the controversy], because if someone hadn't complained, or if there hadn't been any opposition, we wouldn't have this chance to spread God's word in this big of a way," cheerleader Ashton Jennings told reporter Kevin Reece.
Additionally, a Facebook group, "Support Kountze Kids Faith," had more than 43,350 members as of Monday afternoon. The group is closed — meaning that potential members must submit a request to join — and the following statement is included in the group's description: "PLEASE understand this group was created to show support for these wonderful kids, and it is NOT for religious debates, theological conundrums, or bickering in any way. Be respectful. The only reason to be, and post here, is to show support for these kids!"