Sunday, October 7, 2012

A band of cheerleaders at a public school in Texas have made national headlines for making banners including bible verses. Before every football game, the players all run through the banners as they enter the field. An anonymous complainant called the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison, WI organization. Consequently, the FFRF took legal action to prohibit the cheerleaders from using the banners.

From what I have seen, internet sentiment seems to be largely with the poor, oppressed cheerleaders who aren't being allowed to express their religious views. Most of the comments I waded through on this article thought it was very unfair that the cheerleaders would be bullied in this way. Some were particularly annoyed that the person who complained was remaining anonymous. The community has rallied around the cheerleaders, even creating a Facebook group. On that Facebook page, one can read lots of posts and see lots of pics about kids in that East Texas community standing up for their faith and read lots of comments about how no one will tell them they can't show their faith. Etc., etc.

But what I am not finding much of is concern for kids at that public high school who don't share that Christian  faith. Judging from the overwhelming support for the cheerleaders who want to spread their bible verses at football games, no one seems to worry much if there might be a cheerleader who doesn't support the banner use. Or worse, that there might be a girl in that school who would be a cheerleader, wants to be a cheerleader, but isn't welcome because she isn't Christian. Or that there might be a football player who only wants to defend on the field without having to defend his lack of faith as well. Individual students in the stands can display all the signs they want. Individual players and cheerleaders can put their bible verses in their eye black or on their socks, etc. But the cheerleaders as an official school thing need to be open to all, which means they don't get to have a religious identity. Even if every single one of the cheerleaders really and truly is a Christian because that still creates an atmosphere where other girls who might want to be cheerleaders won't feel welcome. Being the majority doesn't make it ok to promote one religious faith in a public school setting.

It's not surprising in the least that the original complainant has concealed his or her identity. In a town like this, where the cheerleaders get this kind of support and those of us who aren't Christian get so much flak, it takes a very strong character to stand up and take the abuse. When I was in high school, I was in a position to take action when some members of FCA got a little too preachy at school. They would put up signs around school urging us to find our savior. I would take them down. They were being allowed to participate in homecoming week activities until my friends and I said something to the administration. I'm contrary enough that I didn't care if people didn't like me. Plus, I knew I had friends on my side. And I didn't grow up in a small Texas town where it would seem everyone is expected to be Christian and woe unto him or her who dissents.

All the Christians in Kountze are free to shout their faith from every hilltop and building roof they can find. Heck, they're even free to have contempt for those of us who don't share their faith, shun us from their homes, or try to testify to us so our everlasting souls will be saved. But that all has to stop when they're on public high school time. Because not everyone is a Christian. And those of us who aren't get to participate, too.

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