Texas high school challenges court
Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 15:10
Texas has once again made the spotlight for the proverbial Christian rally cry, advocating freedom of religious speech. Cheerleaders and their parents from Kountze High School in East Texas have sued the school district, hoping to overturn a decision about allowing Bible verses to be written on banners at the school’s football games.
The Supreme Court case Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe settled the debate back in 2000, but apparently the measure hasn’t stuck. The case ruled that religious displays such as this one at a public school event violate the First Amendment. District Judge Steve Thomas has granted the cheerleaders an injunction from the current law standing, giving them two weeks’ reprieve. The ruling will allow Thomas to review case law and make a decision on the issue. The temporary ruling is simply a matter of majority.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said, “If you think about it, the Kountze cheerleaders simply wanted to call a little attention to their faith and to their lord.” What about the “lords” of other denominations, Abbott? It is extremely doubtful that the situation would have played out the same way had excerpts from the Quran been painted on the banners.
In the setting of a high school football game, where students, faculty and parents who are not involved in the game are present as patrons and observers, it becomes an environment that is very much public, and the banners are a public display of exclusion for those of other faiths.
“We’re going to follow the law," school district Superintendent Kevin Weldin said. "We have no hostilities against religion. I’m proud of the kids for what they stood up for.”
According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, schools in the Lone Star State routinely violate these constitutional protections. Several other cases in Texas have brought free speech and religious expression to the forefront in recent years. Sadly, many cases of these violations go undocumented, because “most of the complainants are afraid of speaking out, even with the Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court on their side. They fear if they go public with their concerns, their children will face retaliation at school. They fear social stigma in their towns. They fear loss of their jobs. They fear violence,” a report from the Texas ACLU branch stated. This report reinforces the idea that the population comprises a majority of those who ascribe to Christian faith, which trumps civil liberties of those who do not.
It must be understood that allowing the school to continue using banners with religious scripture sets a dangerous precedent. When government makes a shift from a stance of neutrality on religion to favoring a specific one, the First Amendment becomes futile.