Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Cheerleaders Challenge Establishment Clause With Proverbs 16:3

Shameless self-promotion: I'm going to use this story to explain what my book, Kneeling in the End Zone, is all about.

From Salon:

[For] nearly a decade, in the small Georgia town of Fort Ogletorpe, the cheerleaders of the Warriors football team have opened their games with that and similar sentiments -- holding banners of Bible verse for players to burst through at the start of their games. 2,4, 6, 8! “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed!”

This season, however, is different. Just a few weeks into the new school year, a parent alerted the Catoosa County Schools Superintendent that the Warriors were setting themselves up for a lawsuit, and the county reluctantly pulled the plug.

Instead of getting into the issue of whether putting Bible verses on public school football banners violates the First Amendment's establishment clause, I will ask, Why did this school feel a need to open its football games by having players burst through words from Scripture? Were the Bible verses meant to inspire players? Was the school or student body making a statement about its beliefs or values? Were the banners a means of evangelism?

I don't have answers to any of these questions, but as I point out in the book, this sort of thing is not unusual. Well, public-school-sanctioned Bible banners at football games are unusual, but using sports as a venue to promote one's faith is not. Kneeling in the End Zone opens with several examples of athletes, fans, and broadcasters injecting faith into sports. It then turns the sports-faith relationship on its head and asks what sports can teach us about faith. "What can Cubs fans teach us about hope? What can we learn about being one in Christ from Joe Louis, Roberto Clemente, and Billie Jean King? What lessons about faith and perseverance can we glean from George Mason's unlikely run to the Final Four in 2006?" (Kneeling p. 6)

(I'll let you draw your own conclusions about the cheerleaders in Georgia.)


Anonymous Kevin said...


I live in Catoosa County; I was hoping this particular piece of news wouldn't reach you.

Britta has suffered much, well, suffering at work regarding her non-involvement in the various protests against the absolutely reasonable removal of Christian cheerleader signs at a public school. Her climate is aggravated by her co-workers' knowledge that she's married to a youth minister, and she's too polite to reveal her husband's opinion: "God doesn't REALLY care about that football game; don't expect me to care about it on God's behalf."

The cheerleader debacle was also the at-length subject of a recent largely Baptist student gathering, See You at the Pole. It mostly just makes me ill what people bother to get upset about when there are completely legitimate things to get upset about that just go ignored. Christ Chapel, a Catoosa County social agency that provides food and clothing for those in need, is in desperate need of canned goods this fall. Any churches upset about that? Nope. Go Warriors.

8:09 PM  

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