For the next week, or even ten days, substantive posts—or any posts—from me will be thin on the ground. (I hope Greg and Matthew will step up!)
This afternoon I’m lecturing to the public in Porto to launch the Portuguese edition of my book, and then heading up the Douro Valley for two days of relaxation (and observation of the harvest) at a port-grape vineyard. After that, my travels are unpredictable until I arrive in Vienna on the eleventh. I’ll be back in the U.S. October 16, but sporadic peregrinations will follow until late November.
In the annals of secularism, the following story is just a blip, but it’s worth noting because it shows Americans’ insistence on dragging religion into every conceivable forum—even where it’s illegal.
In a new article, “Texas fight over cheerleader banners reaches biblical proportions,” The Los Angeles Times recounts a Biblical battle brewing over religious slogans at high-school football games.
Texas is football country, and in the small town of Kountze, about 85 miles north of Houston, many of the roughly 2,000 residents gather at the public high school on Friday nights to watch the show — the players, the coaches and, of course, the cheerleaders in their red-and-white uniforms, toting homemade biblical banners.
“I can do all things through Christ which strengthens! Phil 4:13.”
“If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31.”
“But thanks be to God which gives us Victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor 15:57.”
The Lions cheerleaders are not competitive — they don’t have a coach or captain or permanent leader — and they make decisions by consensus, including what to write on their banners.
“We just wanted to encourage the boys and the fans in a way that gave honor to God. It wasn’t supposed to be a big deal,” said cheerleader Rebekah Richardson, 17.
Well, in the U.S. it is a big deal, because religious displays at public-school events, including commencements and sporting events, violates the First Amendment of our Constitution. Here’s another cheerleader-inspired religious display, this one legal but still bizarre:
As expected, the school and cheerleaders landed in court, brought there by the awesome Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). The banners were initially banned by the school when the lawsuit was announced, but then, in a decision contrary to all legal precedent, a judge ruled Thursday that the banners could continue to be displayed until a final ruling was issued October 18.
This is a clear-cut case: the banners are illegal because they constitute a form of religious endorsement by a public school—formally an arm of the U.S. government.
That, of course, didn’t stop the religious folk of Kountze from kvetching that their rights were really being abrogated instead of protected:
On Thursday, a crowd of about 80 — cheerleaders, parents and supporters — descended on the courthouse. Many were wearing red Kountze Lions T-shirts with a passage from Proverbs: “The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.”
“They’re learning you have to stand up for your constitutional rights,” said Coti Matthews, 31, Macy’s mother and a former Kountze cheerleader.
Ms. Matthews clearly doesn’t understand her own Constitution.
Matthews and cheerleader Kieara Moffett, both Baptists, testified that they — not their adult advisors – came up with the idea in July during summer cheer camp. They were stunned when the district banned them.
“It felt like my religion wasn’t really accepted,” said Moffett, a junior, dabbing her eyes with a tissue.
Moffett has it exactly backwards. Her actions are making all those of other religions, as well as nonbelievers, feel as if they are not accepted.
Someone has fallen down in instructing these students about civics. It’s time for the Kountzee school government teachers to give a class on the First Amendment.
What makes this embarrassing is that I can’t imagine any other Western country, say, France, having a fracas about displaying religious banners at school soccer games. It just wouldn’t happen.