This morning I had the privilege of standing with hundreds of students, parents, and citizens at Marbury High School (http://www NULL.marburyhighschool NULL.org/?PageName=%27SportPage%27&SportID=%2710045%27) in Autauga County, Ala., as they held signs and displayed shirts (http://progress NULL.montgomeryadvertiser NULL.com/article/20121102/NEWS/121102008/Autauga-County-crowd-rallies-support-displaying-religious-themed-banners-Marbury-High-School-football-games?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|Frontpage) (like the one above) proclaiming Philipians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” These good citizens of Marbury were gathered this chilly morning to stand up for acknowledging God–and to stand up against the bullying threats from the Madison, Wisc.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF).
Last Friday the FFRF, as it often does, (http://morallaw NULL.org/news/judge-roy-moore-foundation-to-defend-alabama-town-signs) mailed a letter to Spence Agee, the Autauga County Superintendent, falsely claiming that Marbury High School cheerleaders should be barred from displaying scripture verses on banners they make for school football games. Banners like this:
Whether their signs say, “Go Dawgs” or quote scripture, the cheerleaders make the signs themselves in an effort to encourage the football players and fans. Religion is being expressed, but not forced on anybody.
Judge Roy Moore and the Foundation for Moral Law sent a supportive letter this week (http://morallaw NULL.org/news/judge-roy-moore-alabama-high-school-scripture-banners-should-stay), urging Autauga County to allow the scripture banners as a constitutional expression of faith, and warning against censorship of students, which would violate their rights. As Judge Moore wrote (http://morallaw NULL.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/FML-letter-to-Autauga-Super-Agee-10 NULL.31 NULL.12 NULL.pdf), and as FFRF does not seem to grasp, “The First Amendment protects freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.”
While school-led prayer and Bible-reading has been held unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court (incorrectly, as we believe), student-led and student-initiated prayer and expressions of faith have been upheld. Students and teachers do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Sch. Dist. (http://supreme NULL.justia NULL.com/cases/federal/us/393/503/case NULL.html), 393 U.S. 503, 506 (1969). As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit held in 2000, where a federal court was overruled for sending in anti-prayer monitors into Alabama schools,
The Establishment Clause does not require the elimination of private speech endorsing religion in public places. The Free Exercise Clause does not permit the State to confine religious speech to whispers or banish it to broom closets. If it did, the exercise of one’s religion would not be free at all.
Chandler v. Siegelman, 230 F.3d 1313, 1316 (11th Cir. 2000) (“Chandler II”).
Groups like FFRF have a very specific agenda: to eradicate any public acknowledgment of God, and they do not care how they have to twist the law to do it. Unfortunately, too often a local school board or city council that receives one of the FFRF’s bully letters will cave without so much as a wimper. FFRF never even has to bring a lawsuit, which is good for them because they usually lose. But a school district that surrenders in the face of one baseless letter is an easy win for the secularist agenda.
But when folks like those in Marbury, Alabama say enough is enough, and they stand on their right of religious liberty rather than apologize for it, then the students and citizens get an education in the truth of the Constitution. And it inspires other students and schools not to back down in the face of anti-religion attacks.
I was very encouraged and blessed to join with the Marbury folks today. The people of Marbury showed joy, faith, community, and unity this morning as they gathered happily along Route 31 in front of Marbury High. They are not trying to stir up a controversy; but “controversy” has been foisted on them by a radical group in the liberal city of Madison.
All too often, loud atheists shout succeed in “shouting down” people of faith who think the battle is lost before it’s fought. This modern-day “Marbury v. Madison” that I saw today, unlike the original (http://www NULL.oyez NULL.org/cases/1792-1850/1803/1803_0/), is not being fought in court–it’s being won by local officials, students, and parents taking a stand for their freedom of religion.
I believe America could use more “Marbury” and less “Madison.” Go Dawgs!