Cheerleaders in Kountze, Texas, found themselves in court last week, fighting to preserve their right to inscribe Bible verses on homemade banners at high school football games.
According to published reports, the girls in this small east Texas town were looking to create an alternative to the negative signs that are typically prepared to inspire the team and elicit cheers from the fans.
So, instead of painting phrases like “Scalp the Indians” the young ladies started off the season with a banner that highlighted a well-known phrase from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
“I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”
No parents or students complained, but school officials announced a ban on the future display of such signs. Their decision was partly based on a letter they received from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which suggested the signs were unconstitutional. Lawyers for the district also advised against allowing the signs, citing a Supreme Court case banning student-led prayer at football games.
Ironically, Kountze’s superintendent Kevin Wheldon, who made the decision to prohibit the signs and testified at the trial last week on behalf of the district, said he personally supports the cheerleaders’ actions.
“I commend them for what they’re doing,” he told the judge.
Indeed, at a time when schools all around America are battling against a deteriorating culture, both morally and spiritually, doesn’t it strike you as sad that students trying to positively influence and inspire their fellow classmates are prohibited from doing so?
It should be noted that the signs are created after school and utilize no school resources.
There is something seriously wrong when school officials feel inclined to go against their own conscience and prohibit what everyone in the community sees as good. In some ways it defies common sense but it also points to a growing reality all across the country.
This is a case where a very vocal minority is harassing and antagonizing the majority. It remains to be seen how the judge will ultimately rule, but Christians must come to terms with the fact that challenges and skirmishes of this type will become more frequent in the coming days.
How we respond to them is as important as the source of the conflict itself. Our passion and enthusiasm for free expression must not abate but our witness will be tested, and people will be watching how we react to objections along the way.
Dr. Billy Graham is now in his twilight, and his words through the years have proven wise and timeless. This story brings to mind this reflection of his from years ago. “Courage is contagious,” he wrote. “When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.”
I’m thankful for these brave young women of east Texas.