www.mozilla.com Weather Central
Voices
Headlines

Kids do count -10/22/2014, 10:31 AM

Needing the past in the future? -10/22/2014, 10:31 AM

In praise of hunting -10/22/2014, 10:30 AM

What is a CID? Will it work for mall? -10/21/2014, 10:22 AM

Judging importance on the ballot -10/21/2014, 10:22 AM

Kansas Speaks -10/21/2014, 10:22 AM

Paying for schools -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Joining forces for Orman -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Research before voting -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Davis is moderate? -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

The most important election in your lifetime -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Huelskamp stands out -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Kansas farm interests -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Keeping unfounded reports from 'going viral' -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

The age of cynicism -10/18/2014, 9:02 AM

Preventable diseases -10/17/2014, 10:28 AM

Second term needed -10/17/2014, 10:28 AM

Kansans deserve better -10/17/2014, 10:28 AM

Officially killing Americans -10/17/2014, 10:27 AM

New era at FHSU -10/16/2014, 10:01 AM

Roberts is right choice -10/16/2014, 10:01 AM

Crumbling Constitution -10/16/2014, 9:52 AM

Redbelly's future -10/16/2014, 9:52 AM

Kansas deserves better -10/15/2014, 10:23 AM

Remember to vote on Nov. 4 -10/15/2014, 10:23 AM

You almost feel sorry for Sean Groubert -10/15/2014, 10:23 AM

Register to vote -10/14/2014, 10:14 AM

Living on that 70 percent -10/14/2014, 10:14 AM

New bullying problem for schools: parents -10/14/2014, 10:14 AM

Cheerios, marriage equality, the Supreme Court -10/13/2014, 9:49 AM

Wedded bliss -10/12/2014, 5:54 PM

Who is the real fraud? -10/12/2014, 5:08 PM

Teenagers 'make some noise' -10/12/2014, 5:08 PM

Not so private property -10/10/2014, 10:01 AM

Federal funding -10/10/2014, 10:01 AM

Teacher indoctrination -10/10/2014, 10:01 AM

Vote Republican -10/9/2014, 9:49 AM

Non-partisan politics -10/9/2014, 9:49 AM

Teen driver safety week Oct. 19 to 25 -10/9/2014, 9:04 AM

FHSU party -10/9/2014, 10:11 AM

Poverty in America -10/9/2014, 10:11 AM

Let the women serve -10/9/2014, 10:11 AM

Time for new direction -10/8/2014, 9:49 AM

Improving Kansas economically -10/8/2014, 9:35 AM

Water abusers -10/8/2014, 9:35 AM

Play safe on the farm -10/8/2014, 9:34 AM

Where the money comes from -10/7/2014, 10:24 AM

The president's security -10/7/2014, 10:24 AM

Marriage equality -10/7/2014, 10:24 AM

The sins of the father are visited -10/6/2014, 9:02 AM

Cannabis in America: The bottom line -10/6/2014, 9:20 AM

A reason to celebrate -10/6/2014, 9:20 AM

Gov. shields wealthy from paying for schools -10/5/2014, 2:07 PM

Passionate protest in defense of civil disorder -10/5/2014, 2:07 PM

October is time for baseball and, of course, film premieres -10/4/2014, 2:16 PM

Alley cleanup -10/3/2014, 10:01 AM

Will the West defend itself? -10/3/2014, 10:01 AM

Find another school -10/3/2014, 10:01 AM

It's better now -10/2/2014, 9:17 AM

The answer is to bomb Mexico? -10/2/2014, 9:17 AM

Falling revenue -10/2/2014, 9:17 AM

School facilities -10/1/2014, 9:27 AM

Look ahead, not back -10/1/2014, 9:27 AM

Secret Service needs to step up its game -10/1/2014, 9:27 AM

Roosevelts were true leaders -9/30/2014, 9:18 AM

Moral bankruptcy -9/30/2014, 9:18 AM

Expect some sort of change in Topeka -9/30/2014, 9:18 AM

'A tale of two countries' -9/29/2014, 9:59 AM

The last of the Willie Horton ads? -9/29/2014, 9:59 AM

Finding answers to the future of Kansas -9/28/2014, 2:20 PM

College: Where religious freedom goes to die -9/28/2014, 2:20 PM

Honoring Hammond -9/28/2014, 2:20 PM

Do statistical disparities mean injustice? -9/26/2014, 9:53 AM

World university rankings -9/26/2014, 9:52 AM

Kansas experiment -9/26/2014, 9:52 AM

Two anti-choice parties -9/25/2014, 10:03 AM

Not in the same old Kansas anymore -9/25/2014, 10:03 AM

Domestic violence -9/25/2014, 10:03 AM

Back to war we go -9/24/2014, 9:55 AM

Piling on the NFL -9/24/2014, 9:54 AM

Emma Watson looking for a few good men -9/24/2014, 9:54 AM

Renter runaround -9/23/2014, 7:32 PM

Enough is enough -9/23/2014, 9:02 AM

Life of politics in the state -9/23/2014, 9:02 AM

What is and is not child abuse -9/22/2014, 9:30 AM

Cannabis politics and research -9/22/2014, 9:30 AM

Future of The Mall -9/21/2014, 6:14 PM

Multiculturalism is a failure -9/19/2014, 9:52 AM

State education rankings -9/19/2014, 9:52 AM

Kobach gone wild -9/19/2014, 9:52 AM

Bias prevents civil discussion of education issues -9/18/2014, 9:35 AM

Immigration is American -9/18/2014, 9:35 AM

Costs to states not expanding Medicaid -9/17/2014, 10:14 AM

Medicare threats -9/17/2014, 10:12 AM

Green fields in northwest Kansas -9/17/2014, 10:12 AM

Consolidation by starvation -9/16/2014, 9:54 AM

School mergers tricky -9/16/2014, 9:54 AM

Hotel tipping -9/16/2014, 9:54 AM

Abuse video revealed nothing we didn't know -9/15/2014, 9:20 AM

Lessons from 13 years ago -9/15/2014, 9:20 AM

myTown Calendar

SPOTLIGHT
[var top_story_head]

Does cheering erase church-state line?

Published on -11/8/2012, 8:10 AM

Printer-friendly version
E-Mail This Story

In Kountze, Texas, there's not much daylight between God and football on Friday nights.

That's why most fans in the stands cheer loudly when the cheerleaders hoist banners with biblical verses for the football team to crash through as they take the field every week.

Most, but not all.

As has been widely reported in the news, someone (wisely choosing to remain anonymous) complained last month to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which, in turn, complained to Kevin Weldon, the school district superintendent.

Although he sympathizes with the cheerleaders, Weldon followed the advice of attorneys for the district and banned the banners as school endorsement of religion in violation of the First Amendment's establishment clause.

Not to be deterred, some of the cheerleaders and their parents sued Weldon and the district, arguing that the banners aren't school speech, but private student speech protected by the First Amendment's free-speech clause and Texas state law.

Two weeks ago, round one went to the cheerleaders. A Texas state trial judge sided with the students by issuing a temporary injunction allowing them to continue displaying their Bible banners for the rest of the season.

With that decision, the judge turned a small case from a small town into a potentially big case with big implications for how the First Amendment is applied in public schools.

If the cheerleaders ultimately prevail, their victory could open the door for more student religious expression at school-sponsored events, delivered by members of various school groups -- from the cheerleading squad to the student government.

Current law generally permits students to express their religious (or non-religious) views at school events as long as such expression is genuinely student-initiated and not influenced, encouraged or endorsed by school officials.

When they're not representing the school, for example, the Kountze cheerleaders are free as individual students to hold up religious banners in the stands on the same basis as other students are free to hold up banners with other messages.

But they are not free (at least until two weeks ago) to use the cheerleading squad -- a school-sponsored activity that represents the school -- to promote a religious message. That would put the public school in the position of appearing to endorse religion in violation of the First Amendment as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court.

It was, in fact, the high court's decision in another Texas football case (Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, 2000) that the Kountze superintendent relied on when he decided to ban the banners. In that ruling, a majority of the court made it clear that school-endorsed religious expression -- even when delivered by a student -- is unconstitutional in public schools.

Christian groups supporting the Bible banners apparently hope that the Supreme Court will take the cheerleaders' case as an opportunity to mitigate, if not repeal, the Santa Fe decision. Since the cheerleaders reportedly made the banners on their own time and dime, they are asking the courts to see the Bible verses as private student speech that carry no school endorsement.

But the problem with allowing school-sponsored groups to promote religion is that it would take us back to the era when public schools imposed one religion (historically Protestant Christianity), denying religious freedom to students of other faiths and no faith.

If Bible-banner advocates in Kountze were suddenly transported to another part of the country -- one of many communities where their faith is in the minority -- would they still favor school-sponsored student groups' promoting one religious scripture (or an anti-religious message)?

Would they be content week after week to see their high school football team run through banners with verses from the Quran, the Vedas or Book of Mormon? Or would they be first in line to demand that the public schools uphold the First Amendment -- and stay out of the religion business?

The genius of the First Amendment (apparently lost on the state judge in this case) is that it protects the right of all students -- evangelical, Catholic, Muslim, Mormon or any other faith -- to wave religious banners in the stands on Friday night.

But it keeps the state, including cheerleading squads in public schools, from endorsing one religious message over another.

Charles C. Haynes is director of the Religious Freedom Education Project at the Washington-based Newseum. chaynes@freedomforum.org

digg delicious facebook stumbleupon google Newsvine
More News and Photos

Associated Press Videos

AP Breaking News