Tennessee

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Two, Four, Six, Eight, Separate That Church And State!

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Memo to Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School: YOU ARE DUMB.

There are two huge problems with enforcing the First Amendment provision against the government endorsement of religion. The first is that many Christians in this country still see their faith as a harmless, ubiquitous norm. And the second is that this country is riddled with tiny little shit-holes where they've been getting away with it for decades because nobody thought to challenge it.

One such shit-hole is the Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School, right near Chattanooga, in the dumbest state in the union, Tennessee. Like every high school, Lakeville-Fort Oglethorpe, which I will henceforth shorten to Lake Ogle, has a football team. And Lake Ogle's football team has cheerleaders. Unlike most high school football teams and high school cheerleaders, however, the Lake Ogle team marches out of the tunnel, tearing through banners made and held by the cheerleaders. Banners with Bible verses painted on them.

They are, of course, tacky as fuck. ACTUAL BANNER VERSE TIME!

"I PRess oN ToWaRd THe goal To WiN THe PRize foR WHicH God Has called Me iN CHRiST JesUs - PHilliPPiaNs 3:14" - I have reproduced the cheerleader's typography as best I am able. All the letters were the same height, so any letters that look the same in upper and lower case I rendered in lower case.

Guess what happened. Someone complained. And rightly so. The public high school was using public events to promote the Christian godliness of football using specific King James verses, which violates the First Amendment a fuckload more clearly than limits on armor-piercing bullets violate the Second. The superintendent, knowing exactly what would happen if she fought it, ordered the football team to stop, but did so in the most passive-aggressive way possible. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"I regret that we had to ask the LFO cheerleaders to change the signs used in the stadium prior to football games. Personally, I appreciate this expression of their Christian values; however, as superintendent I have the responsibility of protecting the school district from legal action by groups who do not support their beliefs. I rely on reading the Bible daily, and I would never deny our students the opportunity to express their religious beliefs. I appreciate that our community has rallied in support of this LFO tradition." - Superintendent Denia Reese, who could have saved time and space by just saying "Don't blame me, blame them atheist Jew lawyers".

The banners have been a "tradition" for a whole six fucking years. Which is a long time to get away with this shit without anyone caring enough to complain, but hardly long enough to qualify as a "tradition". The residents of Lake Ogle, being enlightened small-town Tennesseans, accepted their mistake graciously, went on enjoying their secular football games, and didn't at all go full-on apeshit, hosting rallies and bitching up a storm. Sure they did.

"The cheerleaders are not trying to push a religious cause, to shove religion down someone’s throat. The cheerleaders are just using Scripture to show motivation and inspiration to the players and the fans." - Youth minister Brad Scott.

"I’m totally against them doing away with it. If it’s offensive to anyone, let them go watch another football game. Nobody’s forced to come there and nobody’s forced to read the signs." - Fort Oglethorpe Mayor Ronnie Cobb*.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, two men walking down the streets holding hands is "shoving it down our throats". A six foot banner plastered with a Bible verse, that has the attention of an entire stadium focused on it as it awaits a high school football team's entrance, is just "motivation and inspiration". And anyone who doesn't like that can just find some other, scripture-free, high school football game in someone else's Tennessee town to go watch. How could anybody have a problem with that reasoning?

These protections exist because even in the late 1700s, some people realized that not everyone believed the same thing, and that left unchecked, the government could, and would, make life completely fucking miserable for religious minorities. And if it's somewhat off-putting and inconvenient to play along with that, Lake Ogle, tough shit. Pardon me boys, but this is the Chattanooga Fuck You.

*This, by the way, is the hickiest possible five-word combination of title and name. The four-word record is held by Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane.

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