Another late night, thanks to Miss Pink dragging me out of the house to Sauvie Island. The downside is that we didn’t really find much in the way of beaches or little hiking trails this time around. The upside is that we found a great little public house with really tasty sandwiches after heading back.
First, the good news! As expected, the bill to legalize same sex marriage in Minnesota has passed the state House of Representatives 75-59, and is due to go to the state Senate on Monday. Given the Democratic majority there, it’s expected to pass and get signed into law shortly thereafter. As is standard with bills like this one, there is an exception to allow churches to deny ceremonies to same sex couples if they wish.
Second, the bad news! Well, sort of. Back in October I wrote about the cheerleaders at Kountze High School in Texas putting up these huge banners at the beginning of every football game showing bible verses like “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me. -PHIL 4:13.” At the time I said I was a little torn, since it was the students – not the teachers or the faculty – who were putting these messages together. On the other hand, they were displaying them during football games with other schools in situations where they were representing said school … so in that sense, they could be in trouble.
Well, State District Judge Steven Thomas didn’t appear to agree with my armchair legal appraisal, and ruled in favor of the cheerleaders:
A Texas judge on Wednesday ruled that the “Bible banners” waved by cheerleaders during football games in a small school district are constitutionally protected free speech and that the tradition will be allowed to continue.
No law “prohibits the cheerleaders from using religious-themed banners at school sporting events,” State District Judge Steven Thomas wrote in a two-page final ruling. He had temporarily ruled in favor of the cheerleaders in October.
The more I think about the issue this time around, the more unsettled I am about the ruling the way it stands. If we were talking about a Christian youth group that met within the school, then that would be one thing. To have these kids decking out their own stadium (or someone else’s) with bible verses when other schools come to visit, I keep thinking that starts to present a real problem.
It’s not as if this is without precedent, either. From the October article:
In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe that student-led and student-initiated prayers conducted over a loudspeaker during football games were unconstitutional because they implied school sponsorship of the prayers.
Nine years later, cheerleaders at a Georgia high school who held nearly identical signs to those used in Kountze were also forced to stop by school officials who referred to the Santa Fe case.
So, I personally don’t think this is over yet. Given the precedent set by the Supreme Court, I think Judge Thomas’s ruling is going to be overturned, and in the future we’ll less frequently see football banners that look as if they would have been carried into battle with divisions of heavily armed cavalry riding behind them about 1,000 years ago.