From our partners at The Agonist
New York Times, By Manny Rodriguez, October 4
Kountze, TX — The hand-painted red banner created by high school cheerleaders here for Friday night’s football game against Woodville was finished days ago. It contains a passage from the Bible — Hebrews 12:1 — that reads: “And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
That banner, and other religious-themed signs made by the high school and middle school cheerleading squads in recent weeks, have embroiled this East Texas town in a heated debate over God, football and cheerleaders’ rights.
School district officials ordered the cheerleaders to stop putting Bible verses on the banners, because they believed doing so violated the law on religious expression at public school events. In response, a group of 15 cheerleaders and their parents sued the Kountze Independent School District and its superintendent, Kevin Weldon, claiming that prohibiting the students from writing Christian banner messages violated their religious liberties and free-speech rights.
On Thursday afternoon, the two sides met in a courtroom on the second floor of the Hardin County Courthouse. It had all the trappings of a high-profile courtroom drama: Lawyers from both sides haggled over the Texas Constitution and the cheerleaders’ own constitution, a police officer with an assault rifle and binoculars was stationed on the roof, reporters filled the jury box, and one witness — Kieara Moffett, an 11th grade cheerleader — teared up on the stand during cross-examination.
The superintendent’s decision has outraged many students and their parents, and has brought national attention upon a small town about two hours outside Houston. The cheerleaders’ supporters have put up lawn signs and started a Facebook page called Support Kountze Kids Faith that, with nearly 50,000 members, far exceeds the town’s population of 2,100.
How evangelicals are making children their missionaries in public schools
Adults can’t proselytise in schools – but kids can. Hence a new scam by fundamentalists to circumvent church-state separation
The Guardian Comment Is Free, By Katherine Stewart, September 25
When he was 15, Jim ran drugs for a cult group. When I first heard his story, I was shocked – not just that the group was running drugs, but that they had directed one of their youngest recruits to do the dirty work for them. Then I learned why it made sense in a technical sort of way: the cult leaders reasoned that the older members, if caught, would face serious sentences and lifetime records, whereas the kids could get away with an unpleasant but not life-altering juvenile detention. It was a matter of using kids to do what the grown-ups didn’t want to risk doing themselves.
In a tactical sense, religious fundamentalists in America appear to have taken a page from the same book. The constitution and the law prohibits adults from, say, establishing ministries within public schools aimed at proselytizing to the children during school hours. But a growing number of religious activists have come to realize that it’s technically legal if they get the kids to do their work for them. OK, so religious proselytizing is not the same thing as running drugs – but manipulating kids to exploit legal loopholes isn’t pretty wherever it happens.
This tactic has been tested and deployed in a great number of situations already in schools across the country. Right now, a large group of fundamentalist organizations and church denominations is making a big bet that they will be able to pull it off on a national scale, starting in 2013.
If you go to the Every Student Every School website, you’ll see that their dozens of promotional videos are first-rate. The music is great, the cameras are professionally handled, the sound bites are short and snappy. Their message is very clear.