Free Speech and Friday Night Lights

Bonnie Pritchett | WORLD News Service | Monday, October 9, 2017

Free Speech and Friday Night Lights

When a Bossier Parish, La., high school principal last week warned the school’s football players that anyone taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem at Friday’s game could get suspended from the team, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Louisiana quickly responded to correct him. Citing the seminal 1943 Supreme Court decision in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, the civil rights group reminded district administrators that students cannot be compelled to stand for “patriotic rituals.”

But five years earlier, when Kountze (Texas) High School cheerleaders painted Bible verses on spirit signs, the ACLU did not defend the cheerleaders with Supreme Court precedent. Instead, it declared their speech unconstitutional and filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Kountze v. Matthews, the school district’s lawsuit against its own students.

The civil rights organization’s selective application of the Constitution reveals its anti-religious bias. In defending football players’ right to take a knee, the ACLU of Louisiana said students are not “mouthpieces of government speech” and the “schools should respect students who embrace their constitutional rights and stand up to injustice—not punish them.”

But in Texas, the ACLU declared the banners “school-sponsored” speech in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The courts disagreed.

In a ruling on the cheerleaders’ case last week, Texas appeals court Judge Charles Kreger cited a case the ACLU ignored, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. Kreger called it one of the most important decisions in Supreme Court history in addressing students’ free speech rights.

“It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate,” the high court wrote in its 1969 decision.

Across the nation Friday night, some high school football players took a knee during the national anthem. Some faced discipline, and lawsuits probably will follow. The players in Bossier Parish stood arm-in-arm, according to The Washington Post. In Kountze, the cheerleaders rallied enthusiasm for their team with added confidence, knowing they could declare their ability to do all things through Christ who strengthens them, without interference from school officials.


Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Publication date: October 9, 2017

Free Speech and Friday Night Lights