Ga. Community Defends Bible Verses in Football Games

Hundreds of people joined a rally Tuesday night to support Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School cheerleaders and their right to paint Bible verses on banners.

The signs, which the Georgia school football team has run through for years, were banned last week over a complaint that the banners promoted religion.

LFO senior cheerleader Taylor Guinn said they're being silenced for what they believe in.

"It was heartbreaking to know that our school system is just conforming to the nonbelievers and letting them have their way when there's so many more people wanting the signs," Guinn said, according to Chattanooga Times Free Press. "Our freedom of speech and freedom of religion is being taken away."

Catoosa County Schools Superintendent Denia Reese appreciates the cheerleaders expressing their Christian values. But after receiving the complaint, she determined that the biblical banners violated the First Amendment.

"It broke my heart to have to tell those girls that they could not display that message on the football field," Reese told WDEF News. "The location inside the football field creates the impression that the school system is endorsing that particular religious message."

She has allowed the signs to be displayed in a designated area outside the football stadium.

Writing Bible verses on run-through banners has been a tradition at the high school for years.

According to Susan Bradley, one of the cheerleaders' coaches, the signs have been well received by the football team and the community.

"It's just kind of a positive message that seems to have been appreciated by the community and by the school," the coach told Chattanooga Times Free Press. "It seems like it was something that everybody was in unison about, so there was no problem."

The community showed its support when more than 500 showed up at Tuesday's rally. Thousands are also backing the cheerleaders on Facebook.

"What happened at LFO is terrible!" said Brad Scott, a local youth pastor and president of the LFO Class of 2004, who claims the same incident happened during his high school years.

"We stood up for our rights and this issue was defeated through grassroots efforts. Time to do it again!" the youth pastor said on the Facebook page he created.

LFO Principal Jerry Ransom supports the banners but said the school has to "adhere to what the Supreme Court and federal courts have ruled on."

For Jeremy Jones, another local youth pastor, the First Amendment is a two-way street.

"Our Constitution does guarantee that our federal government will not establish a religion. It will also make sure that we are allowed to exercise it without interference from the government," Jones told the Times Free Press.

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