A public high school that banned cheerleaders from displaying religious messages on banners at football games has allocated a specific area on the school's lawn where students can erect religious-themed signs.
For the past eight years - following the terrorist attacks of 9/11- cheerleaders at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School, in Catoosa County, held up explicitly religious banners at the beginning of football games for the players to run through.
The paper banners were usually painted with scriptures from the New Testament. One banner read, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me in Christ Jesus.”
The Catoosa County School District issued the ban following a complaint.
Officials say such a religious expression at a public school event, on school property, violates the First Amendment, and could also result in a lawsuit and potentially jeopardize federal funds.
The decision was met with anger and disbelief from many people in Catoosa County, who claim it impedes on the students' freedom of speech. On Tuesday, hundreds of people rallied at the school to protest the school district's decision.
The newly-designated area will allow students and cheerleaders to continue and display religious signs, said Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe's principal. The area is about 50 yards from the football field.
The Anti-Defamation League, meanwhile, sent a letter to Catoosa County commending them for taking a "courageous stance" on the issue.
Contributors: From staff and wire reports