School officials in Celina, Texas have not only decided to violate federal law but they have decided to flaunt their refusal to comply with constitutional rulings of the Supreme Court. The school continues to incorporate Christian prayers into its games. In a recent game, Celina coach Butch Ford said: “Our goal (against Liberty Hill) was to play with the joy of the Lord in our heart so we’d play excited all of the time, and we wouldn’t be down no matter what happened….” They might not be the only ones “excited all of the time” that they play.
What is fascinating is that school officials usually teach children that they must comply with the law. Yet, here the officials are telling students that it does not matter if the Constitution and the federal courts prohibit conduct: religious beliefs trump federal law.
The students clearly understand that the Celina is different: a self-exempted community that lives outside the requirements of the United States Constitution. Senior running back Troy McCartney noted “In our community we stress God and Jesus very, very much, and I’m very thankful to live in a community like that. I’ve never lived anywhere else in my life, but people who move in say there’s no other place like Celina. I’m very thankful to live where I live, have what I have and do what I do, and I just want to give all the glory and thanks to the Lord.”
After the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in 1999 that schools could not use games for sectarian prayers, the school reacted by openly defying the ruling, even having student wear t-shirts reading “Celina Bobcats Pray Before They Play.”
What if the officials believed that desegregation rulings would not apply to them? Would they be justified to exclude black players? Yet, city and school officials all supported this defiance of the law — a curious lesson for the students in their charge.
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