The cheerleaders at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School thought they were demonstrating school spirit by erecting a huge banner emblazoned with a Bible verse. Unfortuantely, the Georgia cheerleaders broke the law and the student body is learning that God and Gridiron don't mix -- even in the South.
"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me in Christ Jesus," read one banner - quoting a passage of Scripture from the New Testament. Other banners and slogans encouraged fans and players "to take courage and do it," according to The Chattanooga Times Free Press. It seems, though, that a local resident took offense and complained. As a result, the school system banned the cheerleaders from displaying any more signs with religious messages.
Denia Reese is the superintendent of schools in Catoosa County, Ga. While she respects and appreciates the teenagers and their faith in Christ, Reese said she must uphold the law. And the school system said the banners are a violation of federal law (specifically the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution).
"Personally, I appreciate this expression of their Christian values; however, as superintendent I have the responsibility of protecting the school district from legal action by groups who do not support their beliefs," she told the newspaper.
The incident has generated a huge amount of support for the cheerleaders. Hundreds turned out for a rally Tuesday night and a Facebook page has enlisted thousands of members. Even Fort Oglethorpe's mayor is lending a helping hand. Mayor Ronnie Cobb said he will ask the City Council to support the cheerleaders in their quest.
But school leaders contend the law is the law and it must be followed -- to the letter.
In other words -- school spirit is okay -- invoking the Holy Spirit is not.