UPDATE: Does Religion Belong on the Sidelines? (VIDEO)

by omni

We’ve talked about the role of religion at public school events before (see the original post below) and the debate is still raging on. In Georgia, Haralson County School Board pulled the prayer that was normally led over the loudspeaker before each football game. In Kountze, Texas, district officials ordered the Kountze High School cheerleaders to stop using scripture on banners displayed at football games. In Baton Rouge, Louisiana at a basketball playoff game between rival schools Parkview Baptist School and Patterson High School, two female Patterson students were suspended for holding a sign with the tagline, “Jesus loves you…unless you attend Parkview Baptist.” Now, we’re back in Kountze, Texas where, on April 8, the judge ruled in favor of the cheerleaders, allowing them to continue create and display banners with religious phrases and Bible verses. The judge declared that there weren’t any laws that “prohibits cheerleaders from using religious-themed banners at school sporting events.” During the court case, in which the cheerleaders sued the district, the cheerleaders’ attorney argued that their religious banners are protected by the right to free speech. You can view the news coverage below: News source: Yahoo! What do you think about the ruling in the Kountze case? Do you think their religious signs should be banned or protected by freedom of speech? ORIGINAL ARTICLE: What’s the “Right’ Role Of Religion At Public School Events? Sports and religion aren’t typically uttered in the same sentence; but religion within a sports-game setting is a heavily debated topic. The ruling on religion in a school setting is fuzzy, at best. Generally, it is believed that public school districts should remain neutral on the issue. Prayer and religion cannot be encouraged or discouraged; this includes pre-game ceremonies at sporting events. You may be thinking, “wait a minute. I’ve seen group prayers conducted before football or basketball games. How is that allowed?” While a student, whether in the audience or on the sidelines, has the right to individually pray (as long as it doesn’t cause a disruption), prayers before games or school pep rallies shouldn’t be broadcasted over the intercom to the entire audience. Religious signs and banners (often held by cheerleaders on the field) are also discouraged. However, even though broadcast prayers and religious banners can cause quite the controversy, the legal ruling on the matter isn’t entirely clear or set in stone. The Supreme Court has never specifically tackled the pre-game public prayer debate. It is believed that if a school grants students the freedom to create their own content, then by the protection of the First Amendment the student’s speech cannot be censored. Not sponsored or funded by the government, private schools and private sports leagues do not have to adhere to any of the previously mentioned laws. The topic of religion or prayer at a school game has been the topic of controversy for years. Just this past September in Georgia, Haralson County School Board pulled the prayer that was normally led over the loudspeaker before each football game. The move came after the school board received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation notifying them that their pre-game prayer is unconstitutional. Residents of the county immediately fired back and protested (check out the news clip below). “If they want to do it, then do it,” one Haralson County resident says in the news clip of the matter, arguing that broadcasting a prayer doesn’t hurt anyone. Annie Laurie Gaylor, Co-President of Freedom from Religion Foundation argues otherwise. “It’s unnecessary and embarrassing and divisive to bring religion into our public schools. [Students] have the right to attend a sporting event without being told to bow their heads and close their eyes and pray to Jesus.” Religious signs and banners also stirred up controversy last September. In Kountze, Texas, district officials ordered the Kountze High School cheerleaders to stop using scripture on banners displayed at football games. The cheerleaders sued the district and a judge temporarily lifted the ban, allowing them to continue displaying signs and banners with religious passages. One cheerleader told the local newspaper, “I’m sorry for people who might be offended, but our boys are happy and we’re just trying to win our games.” One of the biggest reasons for the controversy stems from the fact that not everyone is religious or is of the same religion. While hearing or viewing a Christian prayer or passage may not be offensive to many Christians or those indifferent on the matter, what about those who aren’t Christian? If the prayers or passages are offensive or uncomfortable for someone, is leaving the game the only option? Beyond audience members, what about the cheerleaders on the field? Should a squad display signs with Christian passages or conduct prayer circles, even if some of the cheerleaders aren’t Christian? That could quickly divide squad members and cause some to feel left out. Perhaps the best way to prevent controversy and hurt feelings is to take religion out of the signs and prayers. Many cheerleading squads pray as a group before a competition or performance but the “prayers” aren’t necessarily religious – they’re words of hope for a great (and safe!) performance. We asked our readers what they thought about the issue of prayer at a school event and we received some great responses! One cheer parent, Brandy W., says that even though she is not religious, she doesn’t mind if her daughter’s squad says a prayer before a game. However, it shouldn’t be shared over an intercom, as everyone might not feel comfortable. Susan S. believes that it is wrong to ban religious signs and gestures. She adds, “Everyone has their [own] right to their religious beliefs. How does anyone have the right to determine another person’s actions?” What are you thoughts on prayer or religion at a game or event? As a cheerleader or cheer coach, have you ever participated in prayer with your squad? If you’re a cheer mom, how do you feel about the issue? If you are not of the religion being broadcast, are you offended by it? Leave a comment and let us know!

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