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Biblical Signs, Football Fields and Facebook

In Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, the events occurring on September 11th spurred the public high school cheerleaders to focus on the Bible. They constructed catchy banners with inspirational messages on them and allowed the players to charge through them onto the field before each game. That all ended in September of 2009.

Church%20%26%20State%20sign.jpgA parent expressed concern that the Biblical phrases may be a breach of the First Amendment rights of church and state separation. The parent was concerned that there may be a lawsuit should the school continue to allow these signs to be placed on the football field. The school board agreed and banned the banners from games.

The barring of the banners did not have a good reception but now, students and fans are filling the stadium with their own banners, filled with Biblical phrases. The town is small, with about 9,600 students in it. The town, including students, took the cause to heart. They call themselves the Warriors for Christ, a play on the school’s team name, the Warriors .
Over the course of the last few months, the group has sold more than 1600 t-shirts bearing a variety of Biblical phrases on them as well as statement such as “You Can’t Silence Us” and “Living Faith Outloud.”

In federal courts, the rulings have allowed public school students to promote their faith but they may not do so in school-sponsored clubs. Cheerleaders would be considered school sponsored. The woman who brought the attention on the signs, Donna Jackson, says she wanted to protect the school from possible litigation.

The separation of church and state has always been a hazy line, especially in the south where religion is on display that is more prominent. Those in this city are definitely committed. More than 16,000 people have joined a Facebook group favoring the signs to be in use in the game while only 77 have joined a group in favor of the banning.

Although many do favor allowing, the banners to be in use in the game most have stopped pushing the school board to change its mind. Simply, they know that if a lawsuit did come against the board, this already cash strapped county could be in further trouble.

If you are a school district administrator with a question about student/teacher safety, special education, accommodations, student rights, free speech or discipline, feel free to call Richard Oppenheim at 818-461-8500. There is never a charge for an initial consultation and we can help you choose the best direction to resolve any school district issue.