Church/State: Religious Banners Spark Controversy at Texas High School; Gov. Perry Cites ‘Spiritual Warfare’

The following post by Joe Deshotel is cross-posted from Burnt Orange Report. Deshotel is a BOR staff writer. His post notes two recent incidents — a dispute at a public school district and remarks by Texas Gov. Rick Perry in a conference call with pastors – that illustrate the continuing efforts by some to blur the line separating church and state. That separation is one of the most important protections for religious freedom in America.

Hidden behind the pine curtain a small East Texas town has erupted into a frenzy after school officials banned religious banners held by cheerleaders during high school football games. Kountze ISD Superintendent Kevin Weldon told the students to cease the practice after he received advice from his legal council to comply with an anonymous complaint. Texas law allows religious banners and signs at school functions as long as they are made by students and were not encouraged by faculty or school officials. The KISD restriction only applies to the on-field display of signs by uniformed representatives of the school, but the cheerleaders, football players, town of 2,100 and 30,000+ Facebook groupies have taken it as a full assault on their religious freedom of speech.

As if on cue (but apparently not addressing specifically the Kountze controversy), Governor Rick Perry spoke of “spiritual warfare” to group of Christian conservatives Tuesday, saying, “The American family is under siege, traditional values are somehow exclusionary, a simple prayer in our public schools is the basis for these secular attacks.”

He continued,

The idea that we should be sent to the sidelines, I will suggest to you is very driven by those who are not truthful. Satan runs across with world with his doubts and untruths. One of those truths is that people of faith should not be involved in the public arena.

Parents of the cheerleaders have tapped Beaumont attorney David Starnes to help them explore their legal options. “I think these are biblical verses that are good. They simply wanted to bring a positive message rather than an angry or competitive message,” Starnes said. The case has caught the attention of the Liberty Institute, a national organization dedicated to “religious freedom” in America. Michael Johnson a spokesperson for the Liberty Institute claims the cheerleaders are in the right because supplies they used were not provided by the school district and they have won 99% of similar cases over the last 15 years.

The students also received strong words of support from former Congressman Steve Stockman (and current Republican Congressional candidate) who warned the superintendent, saying, “this is East Texas, not San Francisco. The superintendent can either overturn his ban on religion, or pack his bags.” He managed not to choke on the irony when he continued, “Congress’ job is to protect citizens from abuse by government officials. If school administrators will not repeal the ban, we will repeal the administrators.”

It may be helpful to understand that this decision was not made by the superintendent but the U.S. Supreme Court based on a case from…you guessed it, Texas. This story will continue to develop as the students’ resolve continues to harden and more supporters plan to rally at the next home game. For his own part Superintendent Kevin Weldon is standing by his decision, saying, “I commend them for what they stand for. But I called legal counsel, and even though it’s led by students, it should not be allowed to go on.”

Right Wing Watch has more here on Gov. Perry’s comments about separation of church and state during his conference call with pastors.

5 thoughts on “Church/State: Religious Banners Spark Controversy at Texas High School; Gov. Perry Cites ‘Spiritual Warfare’

  1. Again the irony of people whose saviour explicitly condemned public prayer complaining about objections to their public prayer.
    And St.Paul was also not very fond of this and knew when and where to properly display the faith and where not.
    Let’s forget for a moment that ‘sports’* was also something early Christians considered inherently pagan and a lure of Satan. For the most part we evolved a bit from that (on the other hand some of it has become a religion all by itself).

    *for both partakers and audience

  2. Apparently some people are having trouble accepting that this country is one nation, and that the same Constitution does in fact apply to San Francisco and East Texas. Too bad. Deal with it.

  3. I made a phone call to the Superintendent’s office to tell him how much I appreciated his following the law. His secretary, who took the message, sounded like she was about to throw up, and couldn’t get off fast enough. Yay, for FFRF, keeping up the good fight too.

  4. I have only one thing to say to this. One nation under God. Our nation was made possible because God blessed us with it so no matter wether its in a school or in the Senate God shld be allowed anywhere. He did give us our lives and free will so where some of people may not choose to support our God in these rough times these kids do so I say let them stand strong and I pray that our nation will follow these young leaders.