Religious liberty back home

Catoosa County, Ga., is a lovely bedroom community just south of Chatta- nooga, Tenn., and the place where I was born and raised. So I’ve paid attention to — but not commented yet — on the unnecessary uproar involving overtly Christian banners that football players run through on Friday nights at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School.

The news reports — including this local one — are plentiful. So have been the responses. I think LFO grad and McAfee School of Theology student Libby Grammer Garrett gives good insight in her commentary.

Only somewhat joking, I have described religious diversity in my home community as Baptists, Methodists and those who don’t go to church but feel guilty about it. These are also fiercely independent people who want no one telling them what they can or cannot do.

(And as in most communities, the religious faith expressed on banners and in loud voices doesn’t always find expression in daily living.)

But the uproar over a reasoned school system policy sadly misses the larger points. Both the school superintendent who enacted the policy and the LFO parent who raised the concern are Christian woman — not enemies of the faith.

It is particularly impressive that the parent who raised the legality question did so after studying church-state issues in a course at Liberty University — founded by the late Jerry Falwell who never did understand the importance of the Baptist-influenced principle of religious liberty for all.

High school students and everyone else in our nation have guaranteed religious freedom. But it is never the function of government (including publicly-funded schools) to endorse one faith expression to the exclusion of others. Having the football team run through a banner with overtly Christian messages at an official school function is rightly to be ruled out of bounds.

Quickly came comments like: “Most people around here believe….” But that’s not the reason we have constitutional guarantees. It is so minority faiths — as Baptists were in the early days of this nation and still are in many parts of the world — have equal freedom of expression.

What seems lost in much of this debate is how trivial it is to inject Bible verses into a simple football game. When Paul wrote such great affirmations as “I can do all things through Christ…”, he was referring to crucial matters such as enduring imprisonment and brutality because of faith commitments — not trying to score more touchdowns than the bunch of teens from another highly-religious community nearby.

1 Comment

  1. JP:

    I have gone to the trouble to tiny url this url

    or google I Want my Country Back at Religion Dispatches.
    Be sure you get the RD in there to bring up the right piece.
    All that to say Wade Clark Roof who is known to many of you has done one of the best jobs to date about the discontent out there among many of the folks who go to church with you or the church down the street or relatives you will see this year at Thanksgiving.
    If not too awkward to get permission from RD on this piece, consider it for upcoming print issue of Baps Today.
    At same time public kudos here for October issue. Please consider sending a complimentary issue to Moss Memorial Public Library in Hayesville, NC.
    I have put George Truett's hometown on notice in Clay County Progress blog the new bio is out there and our friend Aaron Weaver's fine review in the October issue may be the thing that get's Truett's hometown library to do the right thing and order a copy.
    Mercer Press can send me a check in the mail for excellence in unsolicited marketting lightbulb (insert smilie emoticon)

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