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October 18, 2012 7:24 AM   Subscribe

The dispute comes down to a single question: Were the cheerleaders representing the school when they held the banners? Their lawyers and Mr. Abbott said it was clear that they were acting as individuals. The squad came up with the idea, they say, bought the supplies for the banners with their own money and made them off campus.

Cheerleaders at a East Texas high school have been in the news for putting bible verses on the banners the football team runs through before the game starts. The Freedom from Religion Foundation sent a letter to Kountze ISD saying the banners "banners violated constitutional doctrine," so the school district told the cheerleaders to stop. The cheerleaders have now lawyered up.
posted by DynamiteToast (143 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh Texas, my beloved Texas, why must you be so fucking predictable?
posted by spitbull at 7:29 AM on October 18, 2012 [14 favorites]


Donating right now.
posted by DU at 7:31 AM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Be repressive! Be, be, be repressive! B-E-R-E-P-R-E-S-S-I-V-E! Let's be repressive! Woo!
posted by wensink at 7:33 AM on October 18, 2012 [56 favorites]


If schools can ban "BONG HiTS 4 JESUS" signs at school events why can't they ban this? (Seriously, I'm not asking rhetorically.)
posted by papercrane at 7:34 AM on October 18, 2012 [24 favorites]


What I find odd about that is if they venerate the Bible so much then why are they putting verses on a big sheet of paper that amped up adolescent boys are going to angrily rip through?

They should do something more respectful that couldn't be interpreted as desecration. Like, re-enacting the Crucifixion with a human pyramid.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:35 AM on October 18, 2012 [36 favorites]


“All our kids go to church; they support it,” Tiffany Clemons, whose daughter is a student, said as she stood with two other mothers near the sidelines during halftime. “And it’s encouraging kids who don’t go to church to go to church.”
I love this quote, all our kids go to church, except the kids who don't go to church. But those kids are coming around.
posted by DynamiteToast at 7:35 AM on October 18, 2012 [88 favorites]


“All our kids go to church; they support it,” Tiffany Clemons, whose daughter is a student, said as she stood with two other mothers near the sidelines during halftime. “And it’s encouraging kids who don’t go to church to go to church.”

I just don't see what the problem is. All they're doing is encouraging children who don't go to church to go to church, right? The town's citizens have an interest in the salvation of their fellow citizens' souls.

This clearly falls under the state's police power to encourage behavior related to the health, safety, welfare, and morals of its population. It's like requiring people to buy health insurance, wear a seat belt, or go to school in the first place. Which do you think will matter more in the end? A student's abilities to dissect a frog or their everlasting damnation?
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:36 AM on October 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


And then God was like, "Listen, these cheerleaders did this by themselves. Bought the supplies with their own money and everything. I had nothing to do with it!"
posted by mullacc at 7:36 AM on October 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


If the cheerleaders were wearing their uniforms when they were on that field, they were representing the school. Period. Why is this even a question?
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:36 AM on October 18, 2012 [55 favorites]


Can you even begin to imagine the mean girl bullshit that would go down if one of those cheerleaders told the rest she wasn't a Christian? Or even that she just didn't want to be a part of their religious grandstanding?

Anyway, I'd like to see a banner with this verse on it.
posted by cilantro at 7:38 AM on October 18, 2012 [42 favorites]


That makes me kind of want to go to her church. I assume I and my up-til-now non-churching folk will be allowed to burst through banners having nothing to do with church as we enter the praying field?
posted by Ghidorah at 7:38 AM on October 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


So, are other individuals allowed to bring random banners onto the field, then, with whatever messages they like?

Yeah, no. That's why the school can ban stuff like this, and why they did. Admittedly, entirely too late, but. The "lawyered up" bit doesn't accurately reflect how incredible this is: They don't just have lawyers, they have the official intervention of the Texas Attorney General.

Who evidently hasn't actually read anything about student speech before or something? I don't know. I can't even get my head around how he could think this was okay.
posted by gracedissolved at 7:38 AM on October 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


When in public, praise the Lord!
That’s the hypocrite’s reward!
Matthew! Matthew! Siiiiiiiix-fiiive!
posted by nicepersonality at 7:39 AM on October 18, 2012 [99 favorites]


If the cheerleaders were wearing their uniforms when they were on that field, they were representing the school. Period. Why is this even a question?

Seriously. Otherwise, teachers could just evangelize from the podium and say "my faith is personal" and get off. It doesn't matter where the materials were made, you are currently ACTING FOR the school, wherever you got the religious junk from.
posted by DU at 7:40 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Are they wearing the school's name and colors on their bodies and performing the duties of a sanctioned school organization in an official school function? Yes? Then they're representing the school. I don't care whose money they were spending.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:40 AM on October 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


"Onward, Christian soldiers!" Seriously, this is that- it's what you get when you mix religion and hormones.
posted by Phyllis Harmonic at 7:41 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would love for this team to play an away game and see the other team's cheerleaders hold up banners like MAY WOTAN GUIDE YOUR HAND, RA! RA! HE IS A SUN GOD! HE IS A FUN GOD! or IF YOU MEET THE BUDDHA AT THE 40-YARD-LINE, SACK HIM.
posted by delfin at 7:41 AM on October 18, 2012 [108 favorites]


In Eugene, there was this cross up on Skinner's Butte, which is the most prominent hilltop in town. Since anyone could remember, it was up there, and lit up in neon during the holiday season.

A few years ago, there was a left-wing lawyer named Charles Potter, who pushed the argument that since this cross was obviously a Christian symbol, it was a violation of the First Amendment to have it on public property.

After a long fight, the cross was taken down, replaced by a ginormous flag pole with a swimming-pool-sized American flag.

I felt then, as I feel now, that the cross really did not harm anyone's rights. And I am not a Christian. I just felt like it was feeding the trolls, in the current parlance, to prosecute this.

This is how I feel about this issue. Let them have their signs or whatever. The fact that this situation is being read about outside of the borders of this little town is a win for those who would disagree with the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

So please stop feeding the trolls, even the ones in cute cheerleader outfits.
posted by Danf at 7:42 AM on October 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


“It wasn’t supposed to blow up like this,” he said. “This is a Christian town, mostly. We didn’t think it would hurt anybody.”

True, you probably didn't. But, you know, you should have. Because our country is not a "Christian country," despite what you want to believe. Because the school is part of the State, which has a duty to not promote religion. Because people are there for a football game or to show support for the school, not get a bible lesson. A bit of critical thinking would have led you through this set of questions and told you it was a bad idea, but you didn't get critical thinking in school, because the money was spent on lawsuits due to stunts like this.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:44 AM on October 18, 2012 [20 favorites]


Jesus disapproves of lust. Cheerleaders incite lust.

You can see the difficulty.
posted by Egg Shen at 7:44 AM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


The fact that this situation is being read about outside of the borders of this little town is a win for those who would disagree with the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

Not only will I not ignore these "trolls" I won't ignore your concern-trolling either.
posted by DU at 7:47 AM on October 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


I groaned at "skyped with Gov Rick Perry."
posted by discopolo at 7:47 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd push back against teacher-led prayer in school. But at this, I think I'd just roll my eyes -- flag it and move on, so to speak.
posted by Sokka shot first at 7:47 AM on October 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Be repressive! Be, be, be repressive! B-E-R-E-P-R-E-S-S-I-V-E! Let's be repressive! Woo!

Presumably this was what the Freedom From Religion organization chanted as they attempted to prevent others from publically expressing their views?
posted by vorpal bunny at 7:49 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


The whole tear through the cheerleaders' banner thing is weirdly sexual anyway. I feel sorry for kids in small Texas towns where football is God. If they play, they are exploited, and if they don't play then they have little choice but to submit to the Jockocracy.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:50 AM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


But seriously, how great would a "Going all the way to State, insha'Allah!" banner be?
posted by Sokka shot first at 7:50 AM on October 18, 2012 [36 favorites]


This is how I feel about this issue. Let them have their signs or whatever. The fact that this situation is being read about outside of the borders of this little town is a win for those who would disagree with the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

You know what? If this school was a private school, I might even go along with that. Our Lady of Perpetual Motion can Cheerlead for Jesus if they feel that's appropriate.

But this is a public school, unless I'm reading it wrong. That means that you should feel welcome in that school if you're proudly Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Discordian, or None of the Above.

Oh Texas, my beloved Texas, why must you be so fucking predictable?

Far from the only place where bigots exist.
posted by delfin at 7:51 AM on October 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Skinner's Butte, which is the most prominent hilltop in town
posted by ryanrs at 7:52 AM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was in a club that made all the "spirit signs" (we were a big school and so the cheerleaders had delegated it to us). Since it was for a football game, we felt it best to focus on the violence + alliteration approach, i.e. Crush the Cougars, Bury the Badgers, Kick the Kangaroos, etc. etc. Since we also had to make signs for the pep rallies and the sides of the stadium, it was quite an exercise in vocabulary stretching, as there are only so many violent verbs that start with the same letter. But we persevered. I was particularly proud of "Thrash the Tigers" and the battered-looking tiger I drew freehand underneath, myself.

Bible verses? Except for a select few, not nearly violent enough, and of course lacking in alliterative power. Also, that's a lot of words to write out legibly/aligned in metallic paint and covered in glitter. You can't chant them, either.

It's so typically fundamentalist, to take an innocently violent pastime like crashing through a paper sign calling for the defeat of one's enemies, and turning it into a dull Sunday School lesson. Instead of the blood lust appropriate to cheering on one's football team, one instead experiences a vague sense of guilt and/or piety. What next, singing a hymn instead of chanting a fight song?
posted by emjaybee at 7:52 AM on October 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


Presumably this was what the Freedom From Religion organization chanted as they attempted to prevent others from publically expressing their views?

This is a critical shifting of terms that confuses Establishment Clause disputes to no end. It has poisoned the well of religious liberty debate so much that it is almost impossible to have a discussion where all involved can agree on basic terms (both in popular discourse and even, tragically, at the level of the federal courts).

The issue is not people "publicly expressing their views." The issue is people using state/government resources to express their religious views--resources that are not equally available to all and resources that should not be used to express religious views because the First Amendment demands government neutrality when it comes to religious views.

This is not about religion in the public square or citizens' rights of speech and belief. It is about the abuse of government.
posted by audi alteram partem at 7:54 AM on October 18, 2012 [105 favorites]


Hypocrites. To touch the pigskin is unclean.
posted by Graygorey at 7:54 AM on October 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


Who evidently hasn't actually read anything about student speech before or something? I don't know. I can't even get my head around how he could think this was okay.

State Attorney General is an elected position often held by people who want to be reelected -- whether to that position or to a different one. I can't say whether or not Mr. Abbot understands the precedents in this case (though I would bet he does), but he most certainly understands the politics.
posted by Slothrup at 7:55 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


The American Taliban have no drones to fear. Plenty of religious schools in this country if students and parents who want to engage in public demonstrations of faith let them use a sidewalk or their places of worship. Public schools are secular institutions and need to be recognized as such. If people want a madrass then they can do it on their own dime.
posted by pdxpogo at 7:56 AM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Bigot seems like a strong word for this. I did find it interesting that the NYT piece noted Texas had passed the Religious Views Anti-Discrimination Act in 2007, "one of only a few such statutes in the nation".
posted by DynamiteToast at 7:56 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is not about religion in the public square or citizens' rights of speech and belief. It is about the abuse of government.

I wish there were a way to donate to a MetaFilter comment.
posted by DU at 7:57 AM on October 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


Anyway, I'd like to see a banner with this verse on it.

My banner would say MALACHI 2:3! on it "Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread doung vpon your faces, euen the doung of your solemne feasts, and one shall take you away with it."

Go team!
posted by octobersurprise at 8:01 AM on October 18, 2012 [15 favorites]


Ahhh... "Head Injuries for Jesus!", no. "Concussions For Jesus!" maybe too big a word. "MASSIVE Head Injuries for Our Lord and Savior!" How's that one? Too many letters?
posted by newdaddy at 8:02 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


MAY WOTAN GUIDE YOUR HAND
WHY WORSHIP THE FATHER WHEN YOU CAN WORSHIP THE ALL-FATHER?
posted by deathpanels at 8:03 AM on October 18, 2012 [20 favorites]


The American Taliban

How many teenage girls have the so-called American Taliban shot because they wanted to pursue and education? I'll hang up and listen to your answer.
posted by gyc at 8:04 AM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


And it’s encouraging kids who don’t go to church to go to church.

I think there needs to be a non-Christian anti-bullying campaign. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but I doubt that the non-Christian kids at that school feel free to express their beliefs in any form, let alone while wearing school colors at the football game.
posted by blueberry sushi at 8:04 AM on October 18, 2012 [15 favorites]


I wish there were a way to donate to a MetaFilter comment.

In lieu of flowers (or beer), donations may be sent to the Freedom From Religion Foundation or Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.
posted by audi alteram partem at 8:05 AM on October 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


spread doung vpon your faces

Is THAT what that black stuff that football players smear on their faces is?
posted by dlugoczaj at 8:06 AM on October 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Frankly I blame Coach Taylor.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:06 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


If schools can ban "BONG HiTS 4 JESUS" signs at school events why can't they ban this? (Seriously, I'm not asking rhetorically.)

This honestly was the first thing I thought, too.

But also honestly, the immediate second thing I thought was how laughably hilarious Scalia's inevitable "but this is different because shut up" ruling will be.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:06 AM on October 18, 2012 [16 favorites]


I blame Tim Tebow.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:08 AM on October 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


How many teenage girls have the so-called American Taliban shot because they wanted to pursue and education? I'll hang up and listen to your answer.

Awwwww snap dude, your smarmy simplistic comment totally kicked his smarmy simplistic comment's ass boiiiiiiii
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:08 AM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


How many teenage girls have the so-called American Taliban shot because they wanted to pursue and education?

Are we allowed to count women killed by being forced to obtain healthcare in a back alley?
posted by DU at 8:10 AM on October 18, 2012 [40 favorites]


After a long fight, the cross was taken down, replaced by a ginormous flag pole with a swimming-pool-sized American flag.

Of course, now it's lit up all the time, and even brighter, thanks to the miracle of LED technology.

I'm not sure, though, that this is quite the same situation. I think you're dead on with existing monuments and statues.
I think the removal of the 10 commandments or existing crosses from mountain tops is a waste of time for everyone involved. Passive installations from a different time 50 years ago? Let it go.

But something like this, where everyone involved should know better? An active display rather than a banner hanging on the locker room wall?
I think it needs to be stopped, even if it doesn't hurt anyone (which this assuredly doesn't).
posted by madajb at 8:13 AM on October 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Cheerleaders incite lust.

But it's lust for Jesus. Clearly this is the most appropriate outlet for all those pent up libidinal energies channeled by young girls in very short skirts.
posted by space_cookie at 8:13 AM on October 18, 2012


gyc: "The American Taliban

How many teenage girls have the so-called American Taliban shot because they wanted to pursue and education? I'll hang up and listen to your answer.
"

They just kill abortion doctors, yeah, I guess that's ok.
posted by symbioid at 8:14 AM on October 18, 2012 [20 favorites]


How many teenage girls have the so-called American Taliban shot because they wanted to pursue and education? I'll hang up and listen to your answer.

It's an intriguing hypothetical. Suppose you replaced the staff of the Texas public school system with a cadre of "radical" feminists from the coasts... how long before the first school shooting?
posted by ennui.bz at 8:21 AM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


How many teenage girls have the so-called American Taliban shot because they wanted to pursue and education? I'll hang up and listen to your answer.

Children younger than that have been killed. Did you miss the whole thing earlier this year where the pastor told his congregation on tape, to raucous applause, that if a father saw his son affecting a "limp wrist" (i.e. acting in any way that could be construed as stereotypically homosexual) he should break that wrist?

If you think that there aren't American religious subcultures that readily advocate violence against children—for any kind of transgression, including girls not knowing their place—you have your head in the sand.
posted by XMLicious at 8:29 AM on October 18, 2012 [36 favorites]


If the cheerleaders were wearing their uniforms when they were on that field, they were representing the school. Period. Why is this even a question?

IANAL, but I doubt that's the critical question here. I mean, even when wearing a uniform, a cheerleader does retain expressive rights, and her speech isn't automatically the state's or reasonably confused with the state's. If a cheerleader, in uniform, states that Picard is better than Kirk, that doesn't mean it's a state endorsement of Picard.

I'd expect the question is whether cheerleading is a limited open forum for the purposes of decisions like Mergens. Which of course it isn't -- cheerleaders are not free to make whatever statements they wish [within the bounds of good order] while cheerleading; their entire purpose is to publicly espouse a narrow set of opinions.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:32 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]




What resources did they use? The article says that the signs were made with their own money on their own time.

If the resource they used was the football game itself then wasn't that resource used by the individuals protesting the cheerleaders as well? I don't see the Freedom From Religion Foundation going after them.



I am happy to have anti-religion messages (like Bong Hits 4 Jesus) pro-religion messages or no-religion messages.

posted by vorpal bunny at 8:32 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


If the resource they used was the football game itself then wasn't that resource used by the individuals protesting the cheerleaders as well?

Does the school organize the protesting groups and give them special access to team facilities and the field during game time?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:35 AM on October 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


..the individuals protesting the cheerleaders as well? I don't see the Freedom From Religion Foundation going after them.

It isn't the Freedom From Protesting Foundation and the protestors weren't acting for the government.
posted by DU at 8:36 AM on October 18, 2012


IF YOU MEET THE BUDDHA AT THE 40-YARD-LINE, SACK HIM.

IA IA! CTHULHU F'THE WIN!
posted by The Bellman at 8:37 AM on October 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


Hey, now. "Bong hits 4 Jesus" is not anti-religious. What do you think Rasta is?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:37 AM on October 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


I felt then, as I feel now, that the cross really did not harm anyone's rights.
Here's the thing... it's a cross, a distinctly religious symbol. It's not right or wrong or left or right. It simply does not belong on public property.

Part of that reason is because someone might be ostracizing themselves by speaking out against the placement of the flag. It was mentioned before, but imagine the theoretical cheerleader who would step up and say "I don't agree with the inclusion of religion here". Do you think that individual would have suffered any negative consequences from his/her actions?

That's why the amendment is there. No government sponsored religion. Full stop.

Here's the other thing that always gets my sacrificial goat: elections to decide if prayer is acceptable?!? The Fuu? I don't care if 99% of the people want that cross or prayer or whatever... Whatever happened to the rights of the minorities? It's like people going back and saying "just because 'most' people want it, we should be able to do whatever we want".

And that's just pure nonsense.
posted by Blue_Villain at 8:38 AM on October 18, 2012 [18 favorites]


What resources did they use?

They had a privileged resources in terms of physical position on the field & time just before the game that guaranteed access to an audience in a way that others did not have access to. Similar to access to the PA system in Santa Fe v. Doe.
posted by audi alteram partem at 8:38 AM on October 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Let's just drive this thread straight into a wall. It'd be more merciful than the kabuki unfolding before our eyes.
posted by boo_radley at 8:39 AM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would be out there waving Deuteronomy 23:1.

“No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the LORD."

Just encouraging kids who don't wear nut cups to wear nut cups.
posted by Demogorgon at 8:39 AM on October 18, 2012 [13 favorites]


If schools can ban "BONG HiTS 4 JESUS" signs at school events why can't they ban this?

Exactly. This is the PERFECT ground for a test case; let the cheerleaders have their banners, and then see if there's a kid who wants to go in with their own banner -- which they also made using their own resources and on their own time, but it says "Allahu Akbar" instead.

And then - when the school bans them the use of that banner, which they inevitably will -- then pounce.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:40 AM on October 18, 2012 [16 favorites]


Teenage cheerleaders encouraging boys to go to church?

God does, indeed, move in mysterious ways, the cunning little fox.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:40 AM on October 18, 2012


Jesus disapproves of lust. Cheerleaders incite lust.

You can see the difficulty.
posted by Egg Shen at 7:44 AM on October 18 [+] [!]


By my reckoning, this resolves to "lust incites lust".

Where do I sign up?
posted by chavenet at 8:42 AM on October 18, 2012


I love that I didn't even have to click through to the article or comments to know that this involved Texas.
posted by MysticMCJ at 8:43 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know, it's also not about the 'rights of the cheerleaders', or whether or not the cheerleaders were acting as part of the school. That's the straw man, since every school has rules that every student must follow. And those rules must also fall within the guidelines of the laws of the region.

i.e. students can not assault other people on school grounds, students must wear a minimal amount of clothing, students are not allowed to bring nuclear weapons onto campus or make treaties with foreign countries, you know, those sorts of things.
posted by Blue_Villain at 8:43 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


This argument, of course, is simply a rather ridiculous projection of the same one that drives home-schooling and schoolboard fights and, if you swap Abrahamic holy books, Taliban activity in the Swat Valley: the unwillingness of local religious authority (and local religious people) to submit to regional secular authority. (Some of this in any case is driven by straight-up local thuggery disguised as religion, but let's ignore that for now and optimistically call it marginal).

So, driving the thread into a wall, aye:

In the spirit of the great confederal experiment America ran up to the interwar years, it might be time to go ahead and let districts (for purposes of this modest proposal, third- or fourth-level administrative subdivisions no larger than a county) that wish to have local theocratic government just have it, and be done with it. I personally don't see much difference between law derived from the Old Testament and Sharia law, and would predict that Old Testament government begets Old Testament quality of life, but to be fair we've never done the experiment, so that's just my opinion. And maybe it's naïve of me to think that letting religious fundamentalists of any stripe manage their affairs according to the holy book of their choice would remove their insistence that we all do so, but at least we'll have addressed their concerns of personal conscience.

Direct federal and state transfer payments to religious purposes would continue to be prohibited, of course; state and federal income taxes for the residents of these districts would be reduced by a percentage proportional to the expenditure on excluded classes of funding, and would presumably be replaced either by higher local taxation or turned over to the churches, which in some of these districts would probably be granted de facto or de jure taxation authority. This would probably require the separation of health financing and insurance risk pools as well as school systems, but American health care "works" with ridiculously small risk pools by OECD standards even after reform, so this wouldn't cause any new problems.

Schools would not need to be accredited by any state authority, but I would presume that higher education institutions would continue considering the educational background of their applicants as they do now; given the development of a parallel Christian higher-education infrastructure for children whose parents have already opted out of the state education system, these kids would at the very least have a place to sit for the first couple of years of their twenties, if not an actual education. I recognize of course that differential access to education is a major driver of socioeconomic inequality and reduced social mobility, but let's be practical: social mobility in America ain't what legend holds it to be, and the districts in question here aren't in the vanguard thereof.

In order to make this morally defensible, you'd need to have a referendum for the switch to local theocracy by a quorum of the electorate, decided by a supermajority of some sort. Relocation assistance for the losers of such an referendum would also be necessary. This could be funded by municipal bonds issued by the theocratic municipality and purchased by the state or federal government, to spread costs and provide a cost incentive to ensure this only happens in districts with overwhelming majorities of one religion. This seems draconian at first but (1) is merely the continuation of the accepted doctrine of gerrymandering by other means and (2) would have the side benefit of providing artificial mobility to support the housing market in the surrounding region.

There are, admittedly, probably a few details I'm leaving out here...

(I'm just editing here to say thanks for the fact I can edit here!)
posted by Vetinari at 8:45 AM on October 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


And then - when the school bans them the use of that banner, which they inevitably will -- then pounce.

Nah, they'll just let the social dynamics among the kids (you know: bullying) solve that for them. And if the bullying itself doesn't settle their hash, then they'll ban it, but for the student's own safety. Totally different, see?
posted by Amanojaku at 8:45 AM on October 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


This seems awfully different from some asshole judge putting up the ten comandments in a courthouse. This is the quotation being objected to:
Hebrews 12:1: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
It is not overtly evangelical, makes no reference to any God or lack therof, and is actually directly relevant and meaningful to athletic gatherings in a do your best kind of way. Should we also ban public employees from making references to broken hearts, drops in the buckets, flies in ointments, houses divided against themselves that cannot stand, Good Samaritans, eye twinkling, purported physicians needing to heal themselves, puting words in someone's mouth, putting one's house in order, the skins of teeth, sour grapes, washing ones hands of things, wolves in sheep's clothing, or reaping what one sows? If indeed the cheerleaders came up with the idea, bought the supplies for the banners with their own money, and made them off campus - as I don't think is being disputed - I don't really see what little religious speech there is to this is materially different from say one of them wearing a personal crucifix on a chain or wearing a niqab. Their football centric expression just happens to be from the religious perspective they come from.

My banner would say MALACHI 2:3! on it "Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread doung vpon your faces, euen the doung of your solemne feasts, and one shall take you away with it."

Oh, and here I thought this was all about protecting kids from state sponsored evangelism. I guess so long as their being protected from the wrong kind of evangelism right?
posted by Blasdelb at 8:47 AM on October 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


It is not overtly evangelical, makes no reference to any God or lack therof, and is actually directly relevant and meaningful to athletic gatherings in a do your best kind of way.

Just to play devil's advocate (heh), in this article there's a picture of them making a sign that I assume will read "If God is for us, who can be against us" (Romans 8:31), and in this article there's a sign with Joshua 1:9 on it.
posted by DynamiteToast at 8:54 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nah, they'll just let the social dynamics among the kids (you know: bullying) solve that for them. And if the bullying itself doesn't settle their hash, then they'll ban it, but for the student's own safety. Totally different, see?

How do you figure?

I think I missed a step -- I'm suggesting the FFRF drop their suit and try sending the other kid in instead, now that the cheerleaders have lawyered up, on the grounds that "we made this with our own money and aren't representing the school by doing this."

If the FFRF is behind a group carrying another banner in, who also made it with their own money and aren't representing the school, they can wait to see if they're also able to bring their own banner in. Then if they are banned, but the cheerleaders go in, the FFRF can lawyer up and make a much better case ("you're banning one independent religious expression but not another").

I do acknowledge that the absence of religion should be something that can be argued on its own merits. If you like the other kids could have a banner quoting John Lennon ("Imagine there's no heaven/it's easy if you try") or something. My point is, if you can get the smoking gun of the school banning one group but letting another group stand, then it can be a much stronger case for the FFRF.

And besides, something tells me that the kids who'd face the bullying on the part of the Christians would suddenly find a whole bunch of allies who are all "you know what, I'm glad someone finally stood up - I got your back, buddy" and push back.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:55 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


IF YOU MEET THE BUDDHA AT THE 40-YARD-LINE, SACK HIM

Okay, I snorted at that loud enough to be heard outside my office.
posted by Mooski at 8:55 AM on October 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


It is not overtly evangelical, makes no reference to any God or lack therof, and is actually directly relevant and meaningful to athletic gatherings in a do your best kind of way.

It is a citation from a text considered sacred to some religions. The context, both of the Bible and of the outrage expressed by those who defend the banner practice, indicates the religious meaning associated with the activity.

No, according to the Constitution, we shouldn't censor people who speak phrases that coincide with the words of religious texts, because the intent is not to promote religious views using government means.

I don't really see what little religious speech there is to this is materially different from say one of them wearing a personal crucifix on a chain or wearing a niqab.

This is not personal expression. The cheerleaders can constitutionally wear a cross. They cannot use the resources provided to them by their government (the football field, the audience; again, I offer the comparison to Santa Fe v. Doe) to endorse religious views.
posted by audi alteram partem at 8:57 AM on October 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


I think it's hard, for people outside of the state, to understand how deeply entrenched Evangelicalism is in Texas. I've been here 30 years; and I'm still periodically astonished by it. And the only thing bigger than Jesus, in these parts, is football.

Most evangelicals aren't super aggressive about it. (There are "those" people...but they really are a small percent of the whole movement.) But while most of them would never consider buttonholing you at the Brookshire's to give you the Word, they also don't see how having bible verses on the tear away sheet is hurting anybody.

In a school district like mine, where the teachers and principals and other ISD workers commonly wear giant crucifix t-shirts or other symbols of faith, lawsuits from out of state atheists are just going to feed into the "We Are The Persecuted" vibe, and not actually accomplish anything.

See; even if the case wins; the atheists lose. Because now "atheists are picking on our cheerleaders". It's why I don't say anything when teachers wear Christian symbology. I consider it a free speech right. Also; it's not like I'm going to turn into a pillar of salt when confronted by a crucifix, ya know? It's just not a big deal, and I don't see what turning it into a big deal is going to accomplish.

I'm a big ol' secularist. I firmly believe that separation of church and state means that the state should have no business getting all up in church business, and the church should leave running the state to rational actors not following rules written for desert dwellers 2000 years ago.

But tear away sheets on cheerleader signs? Really? Why make that a hill to die on? The cheerleaders weren't hurting anyone; it is in no way a violation of anyone's rights to see a bible verse on a scrap of paper way down on the field at the beginning of the game...and I can almost guarantee you that the vast, vast, VAST majority of the audience either didn't notice, didn't care, or approved.

TLDR: This lawsuit is a ridiculous waste of time and public dollars. Separation of church and state doesn't mean that cheerleaders lose free speech rights, even if their speech is churchy.
posted by dejah420 at 8:58 AM on October 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


Separation of church and state doesn't mean that cheerleaders lose free speech rights, even if their speech is churchy.

They don't, but you don't get to exercise your full array of free-speech rights when you're introducing a school function. If they wrote "VOTE ROMNEY" or "JIMMY, THE BOY IN MY MATH CLASS, KIND OF LOOKS LIKE A FROG," that obviously wouldn't fly. So why does a religious message get a pass, other than tyranny of the majority?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:04 AM on October 18, 2012 [15 favorites]


[Folks maybe a little less of the cheerleader body-policing "I like gurlz" and "clever" plays on words?]
posted by jessamyn at 9:08 AM on October 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


But seriously, how great would a "Going all the way to State, insha'Allah!" banner be?

When you learn what word Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews use for "God", you will know how great such a banner would be.
posted by Tanizaki at 9:12 AM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Regarding Bong Hits 4 Jesus: The case doesn't really compare. Much of the decision in that case was based on the fact that the sign was unveiled *outside of a school setting* (they were on a field trip). That's why the Appellate court ruled that the school had no right to punish the people holding up the sign.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:13 AM on October 18, 2012


It would also be a great way to see which of the students were paying attention in social studies.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:13 AM on October 18, 2012


Wasn't Texas where they had that case where the cheerleader refused to cheer for her alleged rapist, and was kicked off the squad, because when you're functioning as a cheerleader, you're speaking for the school?

So what makes this different?
posted by parliboy at 9:14 AM on October 18, 2012 [21 favorites]


AHHHHH! Does anyone else remember the case/ story where a cheerleader was required to cheer for her rapist on the basketball court? She was told she had to because she was "representing the school."

Can someone please find the links on this?

This is bs that they were making signs like that.
posted by raccoon409 at 9:18 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


dejah, I get what you're saying, but encouragement only makes the fringe types up the ante. They won't stop with a little sign. Because their brand of Christianity does not acknowledge that there should be any limits whatsoever in Christianizing the world, because that can only make the world a better place, in their view.

School is not supposed to promote religion; you can't keep it out entirely, but you can disallow overt displays and indoctrination.
posted by emjaybee at 9:19 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


"That's alright- That's okay- You're going to serve at my table in the feasting halls of Asgard some day!"
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:19 AM on October 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


But tear away sheets on cheerleader signs? Really? Why make that a hill to die on? The cheerleaders weren't hurting anyone; it is in no way a violation of anyone's rights to see a bible verse on a scrap of paper way down on the field at the beginning of the game...and I can almost guarantee you that the vast, vast, VAST majority of the audience either didn't notice, didn't care, or approved.

The injury is contributing to a government where certain religious ideas are favored and others are disfavored, where, in the words of Justice O'Connor, those who don't believe in the favored view are considered to be "not full members of the political community." The rights violation is not in seeing religion. The cheerleaders could post religious banners in their yards or their churchs' yards and would face no constitutional problems. The violation of civil liberties is in using the resources of the state to promote their views.

Governments should abide by the Establishment Clause whether or not anyone would notice the violation or whether the costs of the violation are immediately apparent. Also, it can be difficult for those in the majority or who sympathize with or are merely used to the majority's views to see the costs of using government to promote views, but once seen from a minority position, the problems become easier to see.

"Not full members of the political community" can seem abstract, but the harassment that occurs in many of these cases demonstrates the poisonous effect government promotion of religious has on our democratic community. The ACLU has a report [pdf] on other church-state violations in schools after Santa Fe, where they record events like this:
F Humble ISD. In 2010, a mother upset by prayer at her daughter’s swim team practices and banquets complained to the district and was able to get the practice stopped. But when one of the swim team coaches “apologized” for the prayer in an e-mail addressed to all parents, the complaining parent’s identity was quickly uncovered—subjecting her and her family to relentless hostility and harassment.
TLDR: This lawsuit is a ridiculous waste of time and public dollars. Separation of church and state doesn't mean that cheerleaders lose free speech rights, even if their speech is churchy.

The lawsuit was brought by those in favor of the banners after the school made the wise and constitutionally correct decision to end the practice. I agree it is a waste of money, and I hope the students and tax payers in Kountze ISD don't suffer financially because activists refuse to concede to established Supreme Court like the school board in Cranston, RI did.
posted by audi alteram partem at 9:21 AM on October 18, 2012 [29 favorites]


I would hold a banner

"Atheism is my religion. Let's go team"

Because really, God doesn't fucking care about a football game.

He cares about a binder full of women!
posted by stormpooper at 9:24 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The team is nicknamed the Lions. For a community steeped in Christian tradition, that's about as subtle as calling them the Fightin' Fishers-o'-Men.
posted by rh at 9:26 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


See; even if the case wins; the atheists lose. Because now "atheists are picking on our cheerleaders". It's why I don't say anything when teachers wear Christian symbology. I consider it a free speech right. Also; it's not like I'm going to turn into a pillar of salt when confronted by a crucifix, ya know? It's just not a big deal, and I don't see what turning it into a big deal is going to accomplish.

Because the problem here -- and it ABSOLUTELY IS A PROBLEM -- is not the banner itself. The banner is a symptom of...

“It wasn’t supposed to blow up like this,” he said. “This is a Christian town, mostly. We didn’t think it would hurt anybody.”

“All our kids go to church; they support it,” Tiffany Clemons, whose daughter is a student, said as she stood with two other mothers near the sidelines during halftime. “And it’s encouraging kids who don’t go to church to go to church.”

But there are also messages of praise for the cheerleaders in particular and the Christian faith in general — and occasionally scorn for the Kountze school district, which last month ordered the cheerleaders to stop holding banners bearing Bible verses during athletic events.


...exclusionary beliefs at a TOWN level, not just at a school level or a football team level. Not only believing in what you believe in but town-wide peer pressure for everyone to conform.

Two dozen lawsuits won't break that mentality up. However, confronting that kind of mentality however it manifests -- including innocuous things like banners at football games -- at least challenges the base concept that This is a Christian Town is perfectly normal and appropriate.
posted by delfin at 9:32 AM on October 18, 2012 [15 favorites]


This lawsuit is a ridiculous waste of time and public dollars.

I absolutely agree that this lawsuit brought against the school by the cheerleaders is a waste of time and public dollars. But that's probably not what you mean.
posted by muddgirl at 9:33 AM on October 18, 2012 [18 favorites]


How do you figure?

Basically, I'm saying your plan wouldn't work out in practice (while in principle, I totally agree) because the school won't actually have to ban your test case: in "a Christian town, mostly" where "all our kids go to Church," the peer pressure itself will be enough to keep the vast majority of actual students from hoisting any banners with "terrorist" messages or hippy "liburl" sentiment.

As for whether someone actually attempting it will lead to a Spartacus-like up-swell of support for the rebel, well, I commend you on your optimism.

Anyway, as audi alteram partem reminds me, we're really making the point backwards: the school ended the practice, and the suit is from pro-banner Christians.
posted by Amanojaku at 9:33 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ahhh... "Head Injuries for Jesus!", no. "Concussions For Jesus!" maybe too big a word. "MASSIVE Head Injuries for Our Lord and Savior!" How's that one? Too many letters?

HEAD HiTS 4 JESUS
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:35 AM on October 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Would the school had been allowed to make the team stop if they were illustrating the banner with curse words? Or racial slurs? Or pictures of bloody fetuses? Yes? Then the cheerleaders lose.

Are other groups of students, those who aren't going to church yet, afforded the time on the field to have their alternate banners? No? Then the cheerleaders lose.

The cheerleaders basically just absolutely lose this case. There's really nothing at issue.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:38 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, a slight aside, but I find chapter/verse references mostly annoying for the same reason I find bit.ly links and QR codes annoying. You're making me go to extra effort just to lookup and read what you're trying to tell me!
posted by rh at 9:40 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


In a school district like mine, where the teachers and principals and other ISD workers commonly wear giant crucifix t-shirts or other symbols of faith, lawsuits from out of state atheists are just going to feed into the "We Are The Persecuted" vibe, and not actually accomplish anything.

That's exactly why I was advocating a test case.

I'm saying your plan wouldn't work out in practice (while in principle, I totally agree) because the school won't actually have to ban your test case: in "a Christian town, mostly" where "all our kids go to Church," the peer pressure itself will be enough to keep the vast majority of actual students from hoisting any banners with "terrorist" messages or hippy "liburl" sentiment.

The kids who bring in the "Imagine there's no heaven" banner don't necessarily have to live in the town, just be willing to go to that game. Maybe they're kids from the opposing team's town. ....Also, note that Scopes was not ordinarily a teacher, and in fact offered to take the fall for violating the anti-evolution act in Dayton expressly so he could become the test case the ACLU took to court; finding a similarly-minded kid (and no matter how Christian a town is, I'm sure you'd be able to find at least a couple non-Christians) to be the Young Scopes in this case is what i'm suggesting.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:47 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's exactly why I was advocating a test case.

We've already had our 'test case'. Schools are allowed to limit student speech at school events.
posted by muddgirl at 9:49 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


The cheerleaders basically just absolutely lose this case. There's really nothing at issue.

They've already won the battle, because the town is behind them and declaring that the opposition is the fault of "meddling outsiders." Taking the explicitly-Christian banners down solves nothing if the mindset that encouraged them in that setting remains.

The kids who bring in the "Imagine there's no heaven" banner don't necessarily have to live in the town, just be willing to go to that game. Maybe they're kids from the opposing team's town.

Hopefully with police protection.

And besides, something tells me that the kids who'd face the bullying on the part of the Christians would suddenly find a whole bunch of allies who are all "you know what, I'm glad someone finally stood up - I got your back, buddy" and push back.

...

You have far, far more faith in humanity, specifically humanity in a strongly religious Texas town, than I will ever have.
posted by delfin at 9:56 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I do admit to having a Pollyanna filter quite often.

But I also grew up in a small town and was one of the freaks (albeit, "freaky" in that town wasn't that freaky) and remember there indeed being a definite freak underground - not a huge one, but one that was just enough to tide you over until you could get the fuck out of there - and every other freak who made it out of a small town has confirmed that the same is true where they came from.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:03 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, that's so weird. I've been there. A friend's family is from Beaumont.

Cody Merchant, 16, a sophomore, said students just wanted to do something “inspiring for our boys.” “It wasn’t supposed to blow up like this,” he said. “This is a Christian town, mostly. We didn’t think it would hurt anybody.”

They're almost completely a Christian town, I believe. Unless something's changed in the last ten years, there aren't any mosques or synagogues in Kountze. The nearest ones are probably in Beaumont.
posted by zarq at 10:03 AM on October 18, 2012


They've already won the battle, because the town is behind them and declaring that the opposition is the fault of "meddling outsiders." Taking the explicitly-Christian banners down solves nothing if the mindset that encouraged them in that setting remains.

Sure it does. They are free to have that mindset. They are not free to use state resources to promote it. There's a sharp distinction between those two things, and that is precisely what this case is about. Victory isn't me forcing my views on them, it's getting the law to keep them from forcing their views on others. That's all.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:03 AM on October 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


If schools can ban "BONG HiTS 4 JESUS" signs at school events why can't they ban this?

They wouldn't have banned it if he had put it in the form of a Bible verse.

"And lo, Jesus gave all his apostles a righteous bong rip, and he inhaled that it was good." Gospel of Mary Juana 4:20
posted by jonp72 at 10:27 AM on October 18, 2012


Hmm. I wonder whether anybody made a banner of Samuel L. Jackson's version of Ezekiel 25:17 from Pulp Fiction, would any of these Texan Christians notice it's not Biblical?
posted by jonp72 at 10:34 AM on October 18, 2012


The number of ways cheerleaders break the guidelines of the bible (modesty would be first and foremost, but is just the beginning of the transgressions....) are vast and detailed. I find it so odd that so many christians, particularly those who are more literalists, don't seem to have clue as to what the bible actually says.

Even football likely breaks a bunch of rules, especially those involving violence and hurting your fellow man.
posted by Bovine Love at 10:45 AM on October 18, 2012


The coming descent into a theocracy is going to be so much fun...
posted by Thorzdad at 10:47 AM on October 18, 2012


On one hand, you have a group infringing upon state-church divide boundaries, supporting the Abrahamic religion of the land that certain MeFites love to scoff at. On the other hand, this group aren't the Koch brothers or megachurch televangelists, but a bunch of kids acting like kids in a way contrary to expectations. If their parents aren't the ones secretly pushing for this activity, these kids will spin this battle as the big bad state against high school students. So I find this all to be amusingly ironic.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:51 AM on October 18, 2012


How many teenage girls have the so-called American Taliban shot because they wanted to pursue and education? I'll hang up and listen to your answer.

Oh, that's rich: American Taliban and education. How many girls - and boys - futures were crushed by having them "educated" in religious home settings where they learn not much beyond a distorted view of the bible? How much effort - and with some success - has the American Taliban had with extending their narrow and anti-enligtment, anti-science, and anti-knowledge agenda to education for all kids in some states, even in public schools and textbooks?

I don't think you want to argue how good the Taliban is for education and kids wellbeing and future - anywhere. Including the U.S. of A.

What good has the American Taliban done for education? All I hear is a dial tone.
posted by VikingSword at 11:02 AM on October 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


AHHHHH! Does anyone else remember the case/ story where a cheerleader was required to cheer for her rapist on the basketball court? She was told she had to because she was "representing the school."

Can someone please find the links on this?


After a lower court ruled that she was acting as a mouthpiece for the school and could be kicked off the squad for refusing to cheer for the boy in question, the Supreme Court declined to hear her appeal. So.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:02 AM on October 18, 2012


"The coming descent into a theocracy is going to be so much fun..."

Ummm, have you been paying attention?
posted by Blasdelb at 12:05 PM on October 18, 2012


Hebrews 12:1: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,

It is not overtly evangelical, makes no reference to any God or lack therof, and is actually directly relevant and meaningful to athletic gatherings in a do your best kind of way.


References to sin are pretty religious though.
posted by ersatz at 12:29 PM on October 18, 2012


Ummm, have you been paying attention?

You can still have a theocracy even if the majority don't believe in the religion in whose believers the power is concentrated. Just citing the number of non-religious people isn't an argument against impending theocracy.
posted by hoyland at 12:35 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Claiming that a direct bible quote is not "overtly evangelical" has to be one of the most disingenuous things I've ever seen.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:40 PM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


A judge just granted an injunction in the cheerleaders' favor. They can continue displaying the banners until the lawsuit goes to trial next June.
posted by dlugoczaj at 1:00 PM on October 18, 2012


"Claiming that a direct bible quote is not "overtly evangelical" has to be one of the most disingenuous things I've ever seen."

Quoting Shakespeare is also not inherently overtly Anglophilic either, unless you're using the wrong verse. The bible is a lot of things to a lot of people and not all of them are even inherently religious. Its an historical record, an ancient law book, a collection of parabels, poetry, love poetry, 1,960 year old advice for small group management and non-violent revolution against imperialism, and old school political ramblings.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:05 PM on October 18, 2012


"The Constitution has never demanded that students check their religious beliefs at the schoolhouse door," Abbott said in a statement issued after the ruling.

And that's why we still have prayer in public schools.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:09 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've said this a thousand times, but if the evangelical church in American had any sense of honor, integrity, or spirituality, they wouldn't want Bible verses on football banners. Those are (or so they say) ancient, sacred, inspired texts, deep wells of mystery, the bearers of the Holy Message from an ineffable and wholly Other deity, and these kids pull them out of context and slap them on disposable banners to encourage sweaty football players to do the best job they can of violently moving a ball down a grass field. Seriously, people, the church needs a strong sense of the separation of church and secular society so they stop diluting their own sacred heritage. This bizarre syncretism between Christianity, sports, and the GOP is harming the church in ways they won't fully appreciate for fifty years.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:09 PM on October 18, 2012 [21 favorites]


Metafilter: remove their insistence that we all do so.
posted by herbplarfegan at 1:14 PM on October 18, 2012


not all of them are even inherently religious.

In the context of Kountze, the banners are religious. This is clear based on the backlash facing those who oppose the banners. For example, Governor Perry and Attorney General "General" Abbott today gave a press conference where they perpetuate the false "attack on religious belief" narrative [video]. Perry said:
there’s this very vocal, as you shared, and very litigious minority of Americans that are willing to legally attack anybody who dares to utter a phrase, a name that they don’t agree with.
The words of the governor demonstrate that he sees the issue as one of religious expression, though he's wrong. No one is being "legally attack[ed]" for speaking. They are being challenged (challenged, not attacked) for violating the Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court. By stirring up this persecution narrative, Perry and Abbott contribute to an atmosphere of hostility against atheists, religious minorities and mainstream Christians who speak in support of the Constitution.
posted by audi alteram partem at 1:19 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


*************************
so the school district told the cheerleaders to stop.
*************************

Seems like everything worked exactly as it should.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:19 PM on October 18, 2012


>>"The Constitution has never demanded that students check their religious beliefs at the schoolhouse door," Abbott said in a statement issued after the ruling."

>"And that's why we still have prayer in public schools."

Sometimes I have trouble telling when people are being facetious on the internet but, evangelical bellyaching notwithstanding, we actually still do have legal prayer in public schools. If the prayer does not plausibly represent the views of the school, school administrators are in fact constitutionally forbidden from preventing students from praying in the manner they so choose so long as that prayer does not disrupt the work of others and can be reasonably accommodated. To do so would unconstitutionally restrict a student's right to the free exercise of their religion
posted by Blasdelb at 1:25 PM on October 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I feel strange defending this, but I'm on Blasdelb's side. The banner is a clever reapplication of a quote from a classical text and therefore, in a small way, part of the great web of critical literary development. I'd feel the same about a recontextualised quote from any other religious text but that's beside the point: obviously these girls are drawing from texts that they're familiar with; their background makes their use of it authentic and therefore more meaningful. It is an infinitely better demonstration of genuine education than some generic slogan like "Go Team!" or something else without deep cultural roots.

It is very telling that none of the banner's opponents have been able to come up with anything better than "Hur hur, here's a naughty bit from the Bible!" or totally fictitious quotes that are purportedly from other religions. This shows that small-town high school cheerleaders have a better grasp of English literature and critical theory than MeFites do.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:21 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


It is very telling that none of the banner's opponents have been able to come up with anything better than "Hur hur, here's a naughty bit from the Bible!" or totally fictitious quotes that are purportedly from other religions.

Some banner opponents have provided constitutional arguments that rely on neither additional quotations from the Bible or substituting other religious quotes. The Austin American-Statesman quotes the Anti-Defamation League:
"Public schools are for children of all faiths or no faith, and these banners were clearly being displayed in the context of school-sponsored activities," the group said. "Faith is a profoundly personal decision, so students should not be subjected to an exclusionary school-sponsored religious message on campus or be forced to choose between attending quintessential school events — football games — or being subjected to an unwanted religious message."
The objection isn't that the banners are merely religious but that they are "exclusionary-school sponsored religious messages." As the Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution, schools cannot sponsor religious messages.

The banners seem to me very similar to the issue in Santa Fe v. Doe, though I'd be interested in hearing arguments that differ on that constitutional analysis.

obviously these girls are drawing from texts that they're familiar with; their background makes their use of it authentic and therefore more meaningful.

That they are acting authentically and in ways meaningful to them does not negate the unconstitutional nature of their actions.
posted by audi alteram partem at 2:37 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is the CIA being unconstitutional and exclusionary with this?
posted by Apocryphon at 3:33 PM on October 18, 2012


Let me guess: is the AG up for re-election? Because he knows damn well that the banners are unconstitutional, yet he has no problem at all potentially costing the school system a very large sum of money to defend this. It sure sounds like he's grandstanding for the voters.

And I cannot believe that people are defending this here. This is settled law, the school is going to lose, and waste a lot of money to do so. It is precisely because this seems so inoffensive, so unobjectionable, that the FFRF is taking it on. Because actions like this set up Christianity as the default state, the normal state that we should all be in unless we're freaks. The people that say they don't understand what the big deal is? They don't understand it because all the atheists in town keep their mouths shut, as does everybody who isn't a Christian of the approved variety. They know what's expected, so they keep quiet and the good Christians of the town can't imagine why anybody would object to these banners because of course we're all good Christians here.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 3:50 PM on October 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


Audi alteram partem wrote, eponysterically: Some banner opponents have provided constitutional arguments that rely on neither additional quotations from the Bible or substituting other religious quotes.

I'm not saying that there are no legal arguments against it. What I am saying is that the original motto shows intelligence while the mooted replacements are vacuous. None the less, here's a legal argument, if mere educational value is insufficiently persuasive: when a quotation from a work of literature is excerpted and repurposed it is no longer religious. A huge number of the most compelling phrases in USAn public life are quotations from the Bible. Would you have silenced Martin Luther King because he quoted Amos 5:24 on public property - the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, no less! Would you shamefacedly take the Liberty Bell away from the US National Park Service rather than display a quote from Leviticus 25:10?(*)

People with a rich intellectual life practically live on quotations and allusions. The Bible in an especially fruitful source of these - both because of its nature, and because of its fundamental role in public and private life during the formative years of your republic. Jumping up and down in fear of god-cooties is not only immature; it betrays a shallow and sterile approach to the life of the mind.

(*) King also quoted "let freedom ring", which is itself an allusion to the Liberty Bell and hence a reference to the Bible, once removed. I think the militantly a-religious would display more perfect consistency if they banned the public performance of "My Country 'Tis Of Thee".
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:06 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not inconsistent, Joe. MLK was afforded the same rights to request and be granted a permit as Jesse Jackson, Glenn Beck and anyone else who feels like putting together that kind of event. Telling him he couldn't use whatever speech he wanted to there because he was on public property would be a violation of the 1st Amendment itself, as restrictions on first amendment practices must be content-neutral and viewpoint neutral. Another way that this is put is that they must be conduct-based.

So, for instance, the Federal Government can and does place a ban on issuing permits for weddings on federal lands in DC. It's just too much to deal with having everyone and their dog try to get married on the mall, and the restriction is based in conduct (no getting married in this place) rather than viewpoint or content.

They could then just as easily say that no one may hold rallies from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, but if they do that it really has to be everybody. Since they don't seem to want to place that restriction on speech, it's gotta be open to all comers who can meet the requirements and regulations, and open to all content and viewpoints. And it is.

The Texas Cheerleaders are a very separate issue. For one thing, the first amendment rights of students have always been far more limited than those of adults, to the point of almost being non-existent (but one may wear an armband to protest the war.) Now whether one agrees with that state of things or not (and I think it's tricky and goes too far in the restrictive direction by a mile, but I understand the reasons) that is the state of things. Morse v. Frederick, which was hideously decided with almost sub-literate legal reasoning, cemented that concept: Restriction of students' free speech rights is subject to only rational basis review.

Here the cheerleaders, in their capacity as the cheerleading squad, were using a school function for a Christian display. When called on it by the FFRF, the school realized that, right, they totally aren't allowed to do that because this is well-settled law, and told the cheerleaders they needed to stop it, which the school is completely allowed to do because of what I explained in the previous paragraph but also because they are representing the school as the school's cheerleading squad at the time.

Basically, there are two questions here which are getting easily conflated. The first is, may the school prevent their cheerleaders from turning their spot at the football game into a religious display. The second question is must they. They answer to both questions is "yes," but the first one is the only one at issue here.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:14 PM on October 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm not saying that there are no legal arguments against it.

Joe in Australia, you wrote: It is very telling that none of the banner's opponents have been able to come up with anything better than "Hur hur, here's a naughty bit from the Bible!" or totally fictitious quotes that are purportedly from other religions.

I read "none of the banner's opponents have been able to come up with anything better than..." as saying the only arguments you saw in this thread were the two you mentioned. As I had raised constitutional arguments earlier in the thread, I thought it appropriate to raise those issues again in case you had overlooked them. I'm glad you concur that there are legal arguments against the banner practice even if you disagree with them.

I do, sincerely, try to hear the other side. I don't always succeed, but having a different opinion is different than not listening to others or distorting their views, so I don't see how my disagreement is an eponysterical play on my handle.

when a quotation from a work of literature is excerpted and repurposed it is no longer religious. A huge number of the most compelling phrases in USAn public life are quotations from the Bible.

I discussed here and here why I think the banners continue to hold religious meaning. This is probably a point where we're going to continue to disagree. More important to a clear understanding of the larger argument is the problematic "public life" terminology I talked about in my first comment in the thread. The issue as I see it, and as the courts have seen it, is not about religious ideas being expressed in public. It is about the government being used to preferentially advocate religious views (or using government to criticize religious views).

So no, I would not "have silenced Martin Luther King," because he was in a public forum. Atheists have also reserved government owned space in DC. Nor would I "shamefacedly take the Liberty Bell" out of its space, because it is an historical artifact, unlike modern court houses where judges try to install new massive 10 Commandment monuments.

Jumping up and down in fear of god-cooties is not only immature; it betrays a shallow and sterile approach to the life of the mind.

My arguments here are not a knee-jerk revulsion to any expression of religion. They are a defense of Establishment Clause neutrality, which the religious right has to a great extent managed to equate with knee-jerk revulsion (i.e. hostility) toward religion, but the two arguments are not the same.
posted by audi alteram partem at 5:27 PM on October 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


If the cheerleaders had been using "inspirational" quotes from lots of different books and including the Bible in there, you might have a better argument that the Bible is just a literary work in this context. But they aren't doing that.

And nobody's arguing that they shouldn't do it because we're offended by it. They shouldn't do it because it's against the law, and it's against the law for a very good reason.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 5:31 PM on October 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


To put this in even simpler terms - if the cheerleaders were waving their banners from the stands, they might have a case. Maybe. Doing it from the field is a completely different matter.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:33 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


if the cheerleaders were waving their banners from the stands, they might have a case. Maybe. Doing it from the field is a completely different matter.

This is the key distinction, really: they're not just attending, as private citizens, the show put on by the state; they are the show put on by the state.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 5:46 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Joe in Australia, you seem to have missed DynamiteToast's comment.
posted by eviemath at 5:58 PM on October 18, 2012


AHHHHH! Does anyone else remember the case/ story where a cheerleader was required to cheer for her rapist on the basketball court? She was told she had to because she was "representing the school."

After a lower court ruled that she was acting as a mouthpiece for the school and could be kicked off the squad for refusing to cheer for the boy in question, the Supreme Court declined to hear her appeal. So.


Though she didn't have to reimburse the school's legal fees in the end.
posted by homunculus at 7:54 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The complexity here is that a government funded and run school is at once both part of the state, and also part of the community. As a state institution there are certain rules they have to follow. As a community institution, it's going to reflect the values and world view of the members of that community. Of course, given that the community is 'mostly' Christian, and people involved have honestly said that perhaps the banner will 'encourage' the minority that is not to attend church and so become Christian, there's a problem there. If this is just an instance of the students involved re-purposing a bible quote as rah rah go team, yeah it's a bit overblown. If, however, it's more widely indicative of a community systematically hostile to minority beliefs, whether pro-actively or implicitly yes it should be shut down. Democratic governance is a complex technology we've spent a good couple thousand years working on, and there are principles such as the freedom of religion, which itself is derived from the freedom of the tyranny of the majority, which means sometimes some teenagers in Texas might just have to let there personal relationship with Jesus stay personal, and ideally think about what there actions might be doing to their few classmates who happen to be of a different faith or no faith at all.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 5:54 AM on October 19, 2012


References to sin are pretty religious though.

The concept of sin exists solely within a religious context. To insist otherwise is disingenuous at best.
posted by elizardbits at 8:22 AM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, the defenses they're mounting seem to be exclusively on freedom-of-religion grounds, not claims that it was non-religious speech. So while that interpretation might be plausible in a vacuum, it's not borne out by the other facts.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:28 AM on October 19, 2012


elizardbits: " The concept of sin exists solely within a religious context. To insist otherwise is disingenuous at best."

Are you sure? I'm not convinced it does any more, in modern parlance. Most dictionaries now say the word refers to a transgression of either divine or moral law, or of a principle or standard.

The word may originally stem from a religious context, but it's used in contemporary language in non-religious ways, too. If I say someone has committed a 'sin of omission' when giving a speech, for example, that really has no theistic context.
posted by zarq at 8:44 AM on October 19, 2012


Joe in Australia: "when a quotation from a work of literature is excerpted and repurposed it is no longer religious. "

No.

The banners bear New Testament verses such as:

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Philippians 4:13;

"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 3:14;

and

"If God is for us, who can be against us, who can be against us?"
Romans 8:31.

They declare Christian faith on behalf of the cheerleaders, the football team and the school (since the cheerleaders and team represent the school) in the Christian deity and Christian messiah. These quotes are entirely religious. It is silly to argue otherwise.

Let's say I'm a Jew on the Kountze football team. The cheerleaders have decided that my team should be best represented by Christian philosophies. I don't believe in Christian philosophies. They should not have the right to portray me as someone who does. Not if they go to a taxpayer-funded public school.

Let's say I'm a Jew who wants to join the Kountze football team. The signs are in a sense a form of religious discrimination. The signs proclaim that the team and its supporters are Christians, only.

There is an extensive history in the US of Christians of various sects attempting to add their religious beliefs to the public, secular sphere, and forcing Christian representation and/or ritual observance and acknowledgement on non-Christians. There are large populations of Christians in this country, the Evangelicals, who believe that their deity gave them a mandate to apply Christian principles throughout the world, and to all aspects of everyone's lives, Christian and non. In essence, they believe they have the right to force Christian beliefs on the rest of us. And they campaign tirelessly to apply those beliefs through law to those of us who don't believe.

These efforts are oppressive. They are discriminatory. Those Christians don't just want to be able to display their own religious symbols and quotations in public. They want to do so (often exclusively) with the full force of government authority behind them.

Fuck. That. Noise.

Christians don't get to speak for me, or any other non-Christian. They shouldn't get to dictate what the rest of us do or do not believe. And they sure as hell shouldn't use public (federal or state) moneys to proselytize to me.
posted by zarq at 9:17 AM on October 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


Yah, I mentioned that pretty early on and I guess it got missed. The other point against that theory is that, while it might seem ok if the verses they chose weren't very evangelical, and just good life advice, I doubt the community would be as friendly to similar citations from the Quran. And just because the community is very religious (I know how it works, I grew up in East Texas), we already have one parent on record as saying they aren't all church-goers, so I think the analogy is fair.
posted by DynamiteToast at 9:23 AM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Those Christians don't just want to be able to display their own religious symbols and quotations in public. They want to do so (often exclusively) with the full force of government authority behind them.

You know, besides the obvious legal issues behind this, there's just the issue of pure tackiness vis-a-vis "God obviously loves us and OUR football team more than YOURS."

I mean, if I were a theist on the other team, I'd be pretty pissed.
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:32 AM on October 19, 2012


zarq: " Let's say I'm a Jew who wants to join the Kountze football team. The signs are in a sense a form of religious discrimination. The signs proclaim that the team and its supporters are Christians, only. "

I just want to expand on this because it's bugging the crap out of me.

There is often incredible pressure in high school to conform. Normally, you get it from your fellow students. But when you're Jewish or Muslim or Atheist or simply Not the Right Flavor of Christian in schools in certain areas of this country you may also get it from your teachers.

My wife went to a public high school in El Paso, Tx. She had teachers that lectured and then tested them on Christian beliefs that had nothing to do with their official assigned curricula. She and I both had teachers that deliberately gave exams on Jewish holidays and refused to give tests on make up dates. Teachers who marked you absent rather than allowing you to take a religious exemption. (You can't miss more than a set number of days per year. Absence counts towards that tally. Days taken for religious exemption do not. So if a teacher refuses to mark you properly, you're being penalized for taking a day off when by law, you shouldn't be.) To correct the record, you had to do so formally -- appeal through a guidance counselor and eventually either a dean or vice principal. The process was a pain in the ass, and (assuming the higher-ups actually did anything,) would not endear you to your teacher. So if you complained, your grades for classes could be in jeopardy.

And that's just the teachers. Both of us experienced bullying from Christian students. We weren't alone.

As a minority student in some US high schools you learn to keep your head down with both your fellow students and the faculty, and not make waves because drawing attention to yourself could have serious consequences. Any minority. Racial, religious (or areligious) or sexual orientation.

I said in my last comment that the signs are a form of religious discrimination. But that's not the entire truth. What they do is maintain the status quo through intimidation and by declaring that the majority's opinions and beliefs are the only ones that matter.

And as we can see, speak out against that status quo and you won't just be taking a stand against the cheerleaders. Oh, no. The whole community will have to weigh in. The team. The coaches. Faculty. Parents. Community leaders. Religious leaders. The Attorney General sent a note of support to the district! If you speak out against the status quo, you'll be turned into an instant pariah and Made An Example Of. Heaven help you if they turn it into a Crusade and it goes national. And suddenly, your yearbook picture (and your parents) are being highlighted on FoxNews as anti-Christian, anti-American terrorists by some partisan talking head.

Knowing this in advance, would any of us deliberately rock the boat? Or would we be more likely to keep our mouths shut, grin and bear it? For most of us, probably the latter.
posted by zarq at 11:27 AM on October 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


Not terribly surprising, given that it's a locally elected judge, but judge rules in favor of cheerleaders, temporarily lifting the ban for tonight's game.
posted by dejah420 at 4:53 PM on October 19, 2012


I have to wonder if any of the cheerleaders are familiar with Deut. 22:20-21?
posted by Thorzdad at 7:30 AM on October 21, 2012


The marquee outside the First Baptist Church quoted Acts 5:29: “We must obey God rather than men.” Steve Stockman, a born-again Christian and former congressman running for re-election in the area, suggested that Mr. Weldon’s job was on the line.

“Banning religion is a direct assault on our founding principles,” Mr. Stockman said in a statement. “This is East Texas, not San Francisco. The superintendent can either overturn his ban on religion, or pack his bags.”

posted by rtha at 10:22 AM on October 22, 2012


In a heavily wooded part of the state called the Big Thicket, Kountze is an old-fashioned town of 2,100 with a history of religious tolerance. In the early 1990s, residents elected their first black mayor, Charles Bilal, a Muslim. The majority white, Christian voters made Mr. Bilal the first Muslim mayor in the United States.

Wait, what?
posted by Apocryphon at 2:37 PM on October 22, 2012


From the second page of rtha's link: In a state where courtroom battles over public expressions of Christianity are routine, the cheerleaders’ case has been unusual.

Not even the New York Times can distinguish between "public expressions of Christianity" and unconstitutional government actions. The "freedom of expression/belief" framing is quite a coup for the religious right, so thoroughly does it dominate and derail church-state separation discussions. Says Gov. Perry:
Today's ruling is a victory for all who cherish our inalienable right to freedom of speech and religious expression. I am proud of the cheerleaders at Kountze ISD for standing firm in the knowledge of these endowed rights and their willingness to be an example in defending those rights, which a secular group has needlessly tried to take away.
As if misrepresenting the issue weren't bad enough, there's also the demonization and scapegoating of religious minorities who are often at the forefront of defending religious liberty. I know the FFRF rubs some the wrong way, but their latest radio show [mp3] has a segment explaining how the free expression strawman evades the constitutional standards by which cases like the banners should be judged.
posted by audi alteram partem at 5:23 PM on October 23, 2012


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