A Louisiana high school covered up an advertisement on its football field that included the word “Christ,” a cross and a Bible verse because of a lawsuit by the national group known for its resistance to religious expression in the public square, Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Billy Weatherall, the owner of Christ Fit Gym, in Bossier City, Louisiana, told “The Todd Starnes Radio Show” he paid the Benton High School football booster club $3,500 to put his logo in the end zone for the 2018-19 football season.
“We have a signed contract,” he said.
But Americans United contended in its federal lawsuit that the school district was “promoting Christianity and proselytizing students.”
The suit also alleges “widespread use of prayer on school property, during school events, in classrooms at all levels, at sporting events at graduation ceremonies, during awards assemblies, and at student government meetings.”
Starnes said two students refused an order to remove the logo two hours before last Friday’s game.
“You have to stand up for Christ no matter what (and we) just told the coaches we wouldn’t do it,” one of the students wrote on social media. “We ended up leaving the field and not helping them cover up the Scripture that was put on the field.”
Weatherall said a school official called him Friday saying the school was instructed to paint over the cross. The gym owner recalled the school official “was devastated about it.”
Starnes reported a judge had granted a temporary restraining order to prevent anyone from removing the sign, but it was too late.
The Bossier Parish School Board’s legal counsel advised the high school’s administration that the logo should be removed pending consultation with the court.
Weatherall told Starnes he’s going to fight the lawsuit.
Americans United characterizes the argument that the First Amendment does not include the phrase “separation of church and state” as an argument for a “Christian nation.”
But the Constitution specifies only that Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” meaning it forbids the kind of state religion European nation’s have had for centuries.
Significantly, the First Amendment goes on to forbid Congress from “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion.
Nevertheless, courts have ruled against religious expression on a high school football field, including voluntary prayer.
An assistant football coach in Bremerton, Washington, punished for praying after games has appealed his First Amendment case to the U.S. Supreme Court after a
federal district court dismissed his lawsuit.
The legal firm representing coach Joe Kennedy, First Liberty, has argued his prayers on the field were done privately, and while he allowed others to join him, he did not lead the team in prayer.