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Cheering for Religious Rights

In my government and economics class, we had a debate over cheerleaders using Bible verses. It was just a one-time discussion, but I found it something extremely interesting. I feel like there are multiple perspectives to this story. In Kountze, Texas, high school students painted a Bible verse on their run-through banners. One of the verses was from the book of Hebrews, saying “And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Another verse was Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” In certain outlooks, these verses can be closely related to football and strength. However, there has been controversy regarding freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Are cheerleaders aloud to express their religion in this kind of way? This has been considered unconstitutional, but there is still disagreement amidst.

According to the first amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” The cheerleaders have the right to say whatever they desire. They have the freedom to shout and chant whichever words please them. They are capable of expressing their religious beliefs. The first amendment grants this. David Starnes, an attorney, said that

Kountze cheerleaders supporting their school with a Bible verse.

“It is the individual speech of the cheerleaders and not in fact the government speaking. It is not just one girl or one person in the group that comes up with the quote, but it’s on a rotating basis that each girl gets to pick the quote. That is their individual voices that are being portrayed on the banner.” The girls can have a voice. And according to the New York Times, “they came up with what they felt were more inspiring phrases”, instead of the usual slogans. The cheerleaders wanted to avoid negative, harsh words. Considering the Bible verses chosen are related in some ways to football, and not just random selection, individuals see this as acceptable. It is simply their way of supporting their high school and their way of encouraging the football players in a positive, uplifted atmosphere.

On the other side, people do not want to be forced into religion. In opposition, there are individuals who believe this violates public schools not enforcing religion. As Thomas Jefferson once said, there is a “separation between church and state.” The secular world can easily come in contact with religious beliefs and faithful conversations. This is an exceedingly difficult, yet a possible, arrangement that must take place. In public school, religion and the earthly world cannot be touching. There needs to be boundaries, because without this separation, people aren’t guaranteed their unalienable rights. Citizens have the right to be whichever religion he/she chooses to be. Being forced into religion or in a public environment with Christian influences (such as the Bible verse on the banner) is considered crossing the line.

In my opinion, I do believe cheerleaders can use Bible verses at football games. Their intention was not to make anyone feel out of place or uncomfortable. They initially thought about creating a heartwarming and enthusiastic setting. This, however, can only go to a certain extent. Having Christian references is far different than pressuring an individual to pray or follow a different religion other than his/her own. If (most) public schools say the Pledge of Allegiance, which does include “under God”, it shouldn’t be considered unconstitutional to expand that thought at football games. If saying “under God” isn’t a violation of public schools not being aloud to incorporate religion, then cheerleaders are by far not crossing any line. I do believe writing such encouraging and bright words on a football banner are acceptable, as it is the cheerleaders’ way of supporting their team in a healthy way.

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