For three weeks, the Kountze High School football team burst through banners held by cheerleaders as they made their way onto the field. The large red and white banners contained Bible verses, something most people in Kountze looked at as evidence of the students’ moral upbringing.
Bible verses banned
Kountze is a small town of 2,100. This small Texas town has fundamental roots, and the signs were considered an extension of who they are. That is until the Freedom from Religion Foundation reported that a Kountze resident complained about the Bible verse banners. That one complaint resulted in District Superintendent Kevin Weldon banning religious messages on the banners and other signs at football games. Weldon was torn when he made the decision because he is a Christian. However, continuing to allow the signs and banners would be in a direct violation of United States Supreme Court decisions.
“My personal convictions are that I am a Christian as well. But I’m also a state employee and Kountze ISD representative.” –Kevin Weldon, District Superintendent
Two week reprieve
On Thursday, a judge decided the cheerleaders at Kountze High can continue carrying the banners for at least two more weeks when he granted a request by the Liberty Institute for a temporary injunction on the ban against the signs. A hearing is scheduled for early October to hear arguments.
Freedom of religion vs. freedom from religion
There is a difference between “freedom of religion” and “freedom from religion.” The First Amendment has two clauses about our religious freedom. The first one is known as the establishment clause which bars the government from passing laws that will establish an “official” religion. The other is known as the free exercise clause which prohibits the government from interfering with an individual’s practice of their religion—but religious actions and rituals can be regulated by civil and federal laws.
The real problem stems from the fact that the courts have interpreted the establishment clause to bring about the separation of church and state, and organizations like Wisconsin’s Freedom from Religion Foundation have made it their mission to make sure the state abolishes any expression of Christianity from our schools. Is this freedom? Our religious freedom is a right. It gives us a right to practice any religion we want…or no religion at all, and we can do it without government control.
Mike Johnson, Liberty Institute senior counsel said that the Supreme Court has ruled students don’t lose their constitutional rights when they enter school. (CBS/AP)
“It’s an important and fundamental freedom students have to engage in free speech. They are not asking anyone to believe in Christianity or accept the faith. They are just well wishes.”