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Sep 23 2012

Texas Town Rallies for Christian Hegemony

Hemant Mehta reports on a very typical situation in Kountze, Texas, where before high school football games the team has long been crashing through a banner with Bible verses on it. Someone complained about it and the school administration told them they can’t do it anymore. That has predictably resulted in thousands of people rallying against what they view as a tyrannical attempt to crush their religious liberty. Here’s one of the banners:

A Facebook group has grown to over 30,000 members in only a couple days and it’s full of the kind of thing you’d expect it to be full of. The page says:

Our little town is sticking together and standing behind our kids!!! Someone has tried to prevent our cheerleaders from using religious scriptures on their run-through signs at the football games. This was all led by our children, and they made the decision to give the glory to God this year. We, as a community, will stand up for our kids and make sure they do not lose their voice and their rights in this. We have a group of parents who are not only outraged, but have decided to make a huge statement for our kids! We need all the support we can get for our kids in our little town!

It’s all being framed exactly the way you’d expect — horrible ACLU liberals, atheists and satanists bullying a little town full of Real Americanstm who just want the freedom to declare their faith in God. Of course, they already have that freedom. As Hemant points out, in another town where the same thing happened, people started bringing their own signs with Bible verses on them to the games and held them up in the stands; they have every right to do so.

Hemant makes the obvious point:

The commenters on the Facebook group are acting like they’re martyrs in a struggle worthy of an awful Kirk Cameron movie. They’re not. They’re just Christians who think it’s their duty to push their faith everywhere they go and who don’t care one bit about how the Muslims and Jews and atheists and other non-Christians in their community might feel.

If they don’t put a stop to it themselves and take the high road, then a judge will do it for them.

And that, of course, will just feed their martyr complex even more. Hemant suggests that they might recognize the problem if a group of cheerleaders held up a banner that said “There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and play the game.” A more apt example would be this. Imagine a majority Muslim community like Dearborn, Michigan had a similar situation, with the cheerleaders holding up a sign with a verse from the Quran and thanking Allah. All of these arguments about religious liberty would disappear in an instant.

Civil libertarians like me would be consistent; we’d be opposed to it in both situations. But the people who are screaming about how persecuted they are in this situation would be cheering us on when we filed a suit against the Dearborn school for doing the same thing they’re now defending. Because this isn’t about religious liberty, it’s about Christian hegemony.

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  1. 1
    Trebuchet

    Picturing cheerleaders in Burqas….Nope, doesn’t work.

  2. 2
    anteprepro

    Why do so many people not understand how the separation of church and state works? It is fucking baffling. I mean, I suppose in Texas, with their corrupt theocratic BOE, the Texans might be deliberately miseducated. But this is so fucking common, even outside of states whose public schools are likely lying for Jesus. I mean, this kind of shit happened in Rhode Island . What is fucking up with this country?

  3. 3
    anteprepro

    Picturing cheerleaders in Burqas….Nope, doesn’t work.

    I could see it. Just make the Burqas pink or something, add a little bit of frills and glitter. BAM!

    Just, for the love of Allah, don’t let them chant “Be Aggressive, B. E. Aggressive”.

  4. 4
    desoto

    So do they win every game with god on their side? Oh yeah, god works in mysterious ways; sometimes god says no; yada yada yada. They should thank god for confirmation bias.

  5. 5
    Modusoperandi

    What happens when they lose the game?

  6. 6
    dingojack

    Maybe the Muslim cheerleaders could wear something like this.
    Dingo

  7. 7
    Chiroptera

    Are those townsfolk really Christian? ‘Cause that mascot in the photo sure looks pretty demonic to me!

  8. 8
    John Pieret

    One funny thing was that they used to use things like “Kill the Cougars” on the banners. Apparently, that wasn’t getting the football players fired up enough.

    http://blog.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/give-me-a-u-for-unconstitutional-texas-cheerleaders-fight-to-display-bible

  9. 9
    DaveL

    I’m not sure which way the law would go in this case – there might be a plausible argument that the banner constitutes the students’ protected speech and not the school’s.

  10. 10
    busterggi

    Christians aren’t happy unless they can convince they are being persecuted no matter how large a percentage they make up of the population or how free they are to express themselves.

    Its a psychological pathology.

  11. 11
    basementmatt

    The FB group is now closed, so you can’t read the wall without joining. I doubt the admins would let me in. Besides, like Ed said, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

  12. 12
    Michael Heath

    DaveL writes:

    I’m not sure which way the law would go in this case – there might be a plausible argument that the banner constitutes the students’ protected speech and not the school’s.

    The government has the obligation to defend our individual rights; our inalienable negative rights are not part of a collective.

    I think this point of reference alone obligates the government to protect the rights of the individual student against their fellow religionist sectarian students. Sectarian students who seek to leverage government power to promote their religion in a way that infringes on the rights of other students; even if the set of students outside this group of religionists totals merely one individual and arguably – zero students. I think zero is justified given the existence of the establishment clause and the primary motivation for going beyond numerating our individual religious freedom rights in the 1st Amendment by also coupling that numerated right to an explicit prohibition of government power. That amplification was due to the threat of keeping those in the non-popular religions, or no religion at all, in a state of second-class citizenry fearful of raising an objection to government promotion by religionist sectarians who happened to be popular within their region.

  13. 13
    Bronze Dog

    I mean, I suppose in Texas, with their corrupt theocratic BOE, the Texans might be deliberately miseducated.

    Thankfully, I got a decent education when I was in grade school, understood the distinctions of separation of church and state, and supported it as a Christian back then.

    It’s been kind of a recurring theme that I’m glad I graduated from high school when I did, since I could see the downward acceleration that followed: My younger brother in the following year informed us that the new principal banned the school’s creative writing/open forum/school newspaper-ish thing because it was, and I quote, “too liberal.” There was also blatantly racist enforcement of the new dress code. My brother intentionally violated it every day but they wouldn’t bother him about it (aside from glaring), likely because he was white and had good grades.

  14. 14
    abb3w

    @9, DaveL:

    I’m not sure which way the law would go in this case – there might be a plausible argument that the banner constitutes the students’ protected speech and not the school’s.

    Unlikely. It seems very likely the district will try fielding that argument, if it goes to court. In such event, it’s also almost certain that any court will find “The District argues unpersuasively”, using most of the exact same reasoning from part (a) of the holdings in Santa Fe v Doe — which also involved religious folly at Texas high school football games.

  15. 15
    Chris A

    @ Bronze Dog #13

    You think that’s bad, my father quit a promising career in academic physics (at MIT no less) because physics was insufficiently deterministic. Talk about uptight…

  16. 16
    tbp1

    No idea where Kountze is, but I grew up in the Texas Panhandle. I don’t remember prayers at sporting events, although I went to so few of them (I was a band/orchestra/theater geek) that I can’t be sure. However, we had prayers in the morning at lunch over the intercom every day. After years of protesting by the handful of Jews in the student body they finally dropped the “In Jesus’ name” bit, but continued on with the prayers, long after they had been declared unconstitutional. I’ve never understood how in such a law ‘n’ order kind of place, school officials felt so comfortable blatantly violating the law.

    However, I remember that in some social studies class or other we were shown a film about one of the early school prayer cases (I think it might have been the Vashti McCollum case, but can’t be sure 40+ years later), which clearly made the case for why the practice was unconstitutional, and really humanized the people involved. Nobody seemed to connect the dots. I always thought that was weird.

    I wasn’t obnoxious about things, and certainly didn’t file any lawsuits, but I didn’t bow my head for the prayers, but just kept on quietly doing what I was doing. I left out the “under God” part of the Pledge of Allegiance. There were a few verbal exchanges with fellow students and someone left Jack Chick and other tracts on my desk for a whole year (never did catch him/her). On one occasion I took a punch, but mostly I was left alone. My long-suffering parents didn’t share my views, but always supported me, which was a big help.

    Once, the morning prayer giver (it was always a student) actually invoked God’s help in defeating the cross-town rivals in the big football game that night. (Remember, this is Friday Night Lights territory, and football is a huge deal. As it happens we lost by a big margin, which I felt childishly good about.) I actually wrote a letter to the editor of the town paper about that, in pretty scathing terms. By coincidence I came down with a severe ear infection the day the letter was published and missed several days of school. I got all kinds of phone calls from people worrying that I had been suspended, or even expelled. The chair of the local ACLU branch (what must it have been like to have that job?) called and offered me legal assistance if I needed it. I had no idea what I was stirring up.

    I was halfway expecting some kind of pushback from the administration, at least a talking to if not actual punishment, but I will say that there were absolutely no repercussions. As often as I had disagreements with the front office, I will give them at least some credit for never trying to infringe on my free speech rights.

  17. 17
    Gordon

    How about they get to have bible verses if we get to pick them?

  18. 18
    iangould

    @7 “Thou shaly not worship graven idols.”

  19. 19
    Nepenthe

    Isn’t crashing through the verse a bit, I dunno, disrespectful?

    I don’t get it, on so so many levels.

  20. 20
    sanford

    I had the same thought that Dave L had. I did not read the court case sited in a later response. That is to much legal stuff for me to read through. Maybe some one could give the main point of the decision. I am obviously not an attorney, but it seems to me that would be tough to prove in court, that the sign was sponsored by the school and not something the cheerleaders came up with.

  21. 21
    matty1

    Modusoperandi

    What happens when they lose the game?

    Transubstantiation, it may have the appearance of a loss but it has the true substance of a win. Quantum mechanics will explain this any day now.

  22. 22
    Chiroptera

    sanford, #20:

    The case involved a chaplain reading a prayer over the loudspeaker at home games.

    Basically, if I may be allowed to over-simplify, part (a) of the ruling says that since the student body isn’t allowed to use this as a venue to express their views generally, that is, it is only the prayer that is allowed, then this becomes not an example of private speech, but state endorsement of the religious content. The analogies to the case in the OP is pretty clear.

    This is pretty much what I thought when I read Ed’s OP.

    -

    …that the sign was sponsored by the school and not something the cheerleaders came up with.

    Actually, what the school needs to show is that the cheerleaders can and do produce all sorts of signs with all sorts of messages to jump through. If they only produce signs with Bible verses, then this becomes a forum for the endorsement of religion, not a public venue where students can express their opinions on all sorts of things.

  23. 23
    Usernames are smart

    How about they get to have bible verses if we get to pick them?— Gordon #17

    I vote for Leviticus 21:18-20:

    For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous,
    Or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded,
    Or crookbackt, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken;

    Or if the OT ain’t your bag, Philemon 7:

    For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.

  24. 24
    M can help you with that.

    Gordon @ 17 –

    How about they get to have bible verses if we get to pick them?

    I’d be down with a good Matthew 6:5-6.

  25. 25
    grendelsfather

    Gordon @ 17 –

    How about they get to have bible verses if we get to pick them?

    I’d be down with a good Matthew 6:5-6.

    I dunno, I gotta go with Ezekiel 25:17 … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UmvnXKRfdb8

  26. 26
    gregoryhilliard

    Apparently public prayers before municipal meetings have been going on a lot here in Arizona, something I didn’t know until this morning’s Arizona Republic: http://www.azcentral.com/community/phoenix/articles/20120913prayers-public-meetings-debate.html?nclick_check=1

  27. 27
    erikjensen

    Ed, I find that the argument of “what if the Muslims in Dearborn did …, would that be OK?” doesn’t work with the Christian theocrats. They just say something like “this country was founded on Christianity” or “most of us are Christians” or maybe repeat a lie from David Barton. But I still use the argument because I think it is a reasonable one.

  28. 28
    grumpyoldfart

    Thanks be to god which gives us victory

    It’s not working:

    Kountze Lions dash past Bobcats for 40-11 victory

    http://www.silsbeebee.com/kountze-lions-dash-past-bobcats-for-40-11-victory-cms-2660

  29. 29
    Reginald Selkirk

    Another vote for Matt 6:5-6

  30. 30
    joewinpisinger1

    Why should they not be allowed to put this on a sign if they want? As long as the coach or other school official does not tell them to do it then I see it the same as student led prayer. People put ideas they believe in up in public all the time why should religious ideas be the only ones restricted?

  31. 31
    Chiroptera

    joewinpisinger1, #30: People put ideas they believe in up in public all the time…

    And if those cheerleaders solicited ideas from the student body to put up and then put up signs with a wide variety of ideas, then this just might count as a public venue and be allowed under the First Amendment; in fact, in that case, it may very well be forbidden for the school to discriminate against religious messages.

    -

    …why should religious ideas be the only ones restricted?

    The point is that the signs seem to be restricted to religious messages.

  32. 32
    Steve Caldwell

    @17 Gordon says:

    How about they get to have bible verses if we get to pick them?

    How about Ezekiel 23:20?

  33. 33
    tommykey

    I never understood the conflation of Christianity with football in the South. I don’t recall Jesus talking very much about football in the gospels.

  34. 34
    laurentweppe

    I don’t recall Jesus talking very much about football in the gospels.

    That’s because the Vatican hid the parable of the Nubian sissie who prefered soccer because he was afraid to have his skull torn open.

  35. 35
    Michael Heath

    tommykey writes:

    I never understood the conflation of Christianity with football in the South. I don’t recall Jesus talking very much about football in the gospels.

    I observe the high priority of sports in all of evangelicalism, not just the South and American football – at least with males. I concluded as a teen-age jock that it served as an avoidance technique so people didn’t become too introspective of the assumptions and factual claims asserted in support of their faith being objectively true.

    Sports is a great diversion within a community which requires a diversion to avoid how many of their premises have been falsified and how their systemic approach to seeking truth can be proved to be laughably bad with the merest whiff of scrutiny.

    I also observe that the older one gets, the less efficacy this avoidance technique works. Since the rise of the Internet and Fox News, it appears the older evangelicals are increasingly supplanting their obsession with sports with an ideology that merges politics and religion but also doesn’t require them to consider the legitimacy of their religion’s truth claims; instead they predominately focus on partisan politics. That seems to be working as an avoidance technique as well.

  36. 36
    dingojack

    If we’re picking bibilical verses, why not the appropriate wingnut verses: Lamentations 1:19-21.
    Dingo

  37. 37
    puppygod

    Wait a second. Do I misunderstand something, or did they willingly, in public, admitted that they are so incompetent that they won only thanks to the literal miracle (if not for God, they wouldn’t win)? And they are proud of it?

    Texans are weird.

  38. 38
    eamick

    What makes this especially rich is that, at least according to Wikipedia, Kountze was the first city in the U.S. to have a Muslim mayor.

  39. 39
    bmiller

    I wonder if the Lord Jesus is also responsible for the good showing of the robotics team?

  1. 40
    Texas Town Rallies for Christian Hegemony | Dispatches from the … | Christian Dailys

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