You are at a high school football game, ready to cheer your team to victory. The cheerleaders stand in formation, waiting for the announcer to proclaim that your team is about to take the field. The cheerleaders begin to prepare and they roll out an enormous sign, colored with school spirit, for the football players to proudly rip through. You look at the sign and notice it says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Go team! Lead our school to a victory.” You think to yourself, I am not a Christian. Why is a sign like this representing my school? Does this not break the standards set by the First Amendment?
You are correct to question the cheerleaders’ sign. Many public ...view middle of the document...
The District Court ruled in favor of this amended policy, provided that the prayers must be non-sectarian and non-proselytizing (“Religion in Schools”).
This ruling was not adequate for the SFISD nor Doe. Both appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The SFISD appealed because they did not believe that the prayers had to be non-sectarian and non-proselytizing, and Doe wanted the whole policy to be ruled unconstitutional. In a 6-3 decision, the court held that the overall policy was, in fact, unconstitutional. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the Majority Opinion, and asserted that:
Prayers delivered on school property, at school-sponsored events, over the school’s public address system, by a speaker representing the student body, under the supervision of school faculty, and pursuant to a school policy that explicitly and implicitly encourages public prayer is not private, but public speech. Regardless of the listener’s support for, or objection to, the message, an objective Santa Fe High School student will unquestionably perceive the inevitable pre-game prayer as stamped with [the] school’s seal of approval. (Stevens)
The Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe court case can undoubtedly be applied to the question of whether or not it is a student’s right to have a religious sign at a football game. Having a religious sign on the school field, made by school cheerleaders, and presented to all of the school’s football players assumes that all of the members of the school district agree to the presented value. This abridges the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. However, what is a student’s individual religious right at such football game? This is a completely separate question.
To answer this question, examine the 1969 court case of Tinker v. Des Moines School District. This case upheld that students had the right to wear armbands that protested the Vietnam War, and ruled that the school authorities could not suppress their freedom of expression (“Tinker v. Des Moines”). Applying this to a football-based scenario, it would be within the individual rights of expression for a football player to wear an armband with a Bible verse on it. This would be acceptable because it would represent an individual’s expression of religion, which a...