The first amendment of the constitution is pretty important around our house. Even my five- and seven-year-olds understand that the government shouldn’t push any particular belief set on its citizenry. Not everyone gets that, however. “If it’s offensive to anyone, let them go watch another football game,” said Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, Mayor Ronnie Cobb. “Nobody’s forced to come there and nobody’s forced to read the signs.” Mayor Cobb was referring to banners held by cheerleaders at the start of high school football games that included bible verses encouraging players to “commit to the Lord”.
After a complaint was lodged, the school district reviewed the messages and determined that it is “a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution for signs with Bible verses to be displayed on the football field.” Unfortunately, the cheerleaders had prepared a full season’s worth of the huge banners for the football players to burst through at the start of each game. Still, it is clear that the district made the correct decision.
While the mayor seems to have the attitude that if you aren’t one of them, you can go elsewhere, Catoosa County Schools Superintendent Denia Reese understands the issue. “Personally,” she explained, “I appreciate this expression of their Christian values; however, as superintendent I have the responsibility of protecting the school district from legal action by groups who do not support their beliefs.” The point is that public schools should be a welcome place for all members of the community, not just those who are a part of the majority.
What do you think? Should the cheerleaders be permitted to use quotes from the Bible, Qur’an, Book of Mormon, or other religious texts? Or should such matters be best left to parents and preachers?