Texas Cheerleaders and Freedom of Speech

A few weeks ago a Texas high school cheerleading squad came under attack as they used Bible scripture as motivating words at their football games.  The superintendent for the school has banned the use of Bible scripture on banners at football games after being contacted by the Freedom From Religion Foundation regarding a complaint.  The situation is now working it’s way through the court system for a resolution to determine whether this is a violation of Separation of Chruch and State or if it’s an expression of freedom of speech.  Douglas Laycock, professor of constitutional law at the University of Virginia School of Law said

“I do not think there is much doubt that it is unconstitutional. This was very specifically Christian and clearly sponsored by the school. Cheerleaders are a school activity and the game is a school activity. This is not a random group acting on their own.”

Okay, that’s really taking this way to far.  It’s insinuating that the school is overtly or even subliminally encouraging these students to use Bible scripture in an attempt to proselytize the community to Christianity.  Almost as if the cheerleading coach running the program like Sue Sylvester, enforcing her own will to overthrow the school.  There is nothing sinister in the intentions of these cheerleaders. 

I understand and believe in a clear separation of Church and State.  I believe that we should be cognizant and open to all faiths and a prayer to the Christian God at public events inherently alienates those of other faiths or non-faiths as patrons of an event.  But, the issue I have here is at what point is the separation of church and state argument trampling on freedom of speech.  And moreso, why can’t biblical scripture be used?  Should we then refrain from using any motivational quotation?  Should all cheerleading signs simply stick to “Go, Fight, Win”.  Oh, wait, make that “Go, Win” since the word fight might be misconstrued to promote physical violence and bullying.

While references to the Bible may have more significant meaning to Christian’s why can’t meaning and motivation be drawn by those of other faiths and even unbelief?

Now, I have to concede.  If the cheerleading squad started using motivating text from the Koran people would be pretty upset.  But the Freedom From Religion foundation isn’t concerned about making sure that all faiths are represented equally.  Their name shows their intent “Freedom FROM Religion”.  Not freedom FOR religion.  So will they stop by removing references to Christian based propaganda, or will it include other quotations and references leading to a personal belief system?

Are we getting to a point where the “Separation of Church and State” is so tedious that students are no longer permitted to express their own thoughts and opinions?  I’m not afraid of the removal of religious sponsorship from public institutions.  What I am afraid of is the ability of students who are seeking for formulate and express their ideals and beliefs, being restricted to the point of inhibiting their personal growth.  If their speech is restricted in one area who’s to tell them they won’t be restricted in others?  Can they really feel comfortable believing that they have freedom of speech when someone will sue them if it’s the wrong speech?

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