Pray to Play: Texas School Defies Supreme Court on Prayer at Games

St51766chool 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.

For the full story, click here.

46 thoughts on “Pray to Play: Texas School Defies Supreme Court on Prayer at Games

  1. Bush and fellow Republicans fostered this defiance. One of the scariest moments for me during the campaign was when preachers across the nation announced to the public that they would unabashedly be supporting McCain/Palin during their sermons, even at the risk of losing their tax statuses. This kind of religious zeal is no better than the fanaticism Republicans claim we need to fear.

    Sheer Progress
    http://www.sheerprogress.com

  2. Let’s talk Bush’s legacy. The examples of selective adherence to US law are by the Bush administration are many, in fact legendary. The folks in Celina have watched their self-proclaimed Christian President order subordinates to ignore lawful subpeonas, for instance. They’ve seen dozens of signing statement which allow the administration to simply ignore the very legisslation he’s signing. We’ve all seen the President admit in public that he defiantly ignored FISA. The Vice-President has recently admitted ignoring US laws on torture and outing Valerie Plame. Who can blame them for believing that if they’re Christians they can do as they please? In their minds, their big book trumps that measly old piece of parchment called the Constitution every day. Hey, it’s worked for the White House.

    When Clinton left office there was much consternation about his “legacy” being tied to a lossening of sexual mores by what constituted adultery or having “…sex with that women…”.

    Let’s review. One legacy may have contributed to an uptick in philandering or perhaps even in divorce. The other provides cover for the folks from Celina to ignore US laws. Since we are a nation of laws, we should be righteously indignant that this President’s legacy has the potential to be the very collapse of the nation.

  3. I know I’m going to tick a lot of people off when I say this but….

    GOOD FOR THEM!!!! I think it’s great!! These people are proud to be Christians!! More power to them to stand up for what they believe is right!!

  4. Sally:

    I keep that in mind the next time I see drivers blowing stop signs under some pretext that God didn’t want them to stop. You either respect the rule of law or you don’t. Everyone has a “good” reason to ignore the laws with which they disagree. I hear your philosophy prevails rather nicely in Mogadishu.

  5. A Happy Solsitce to All:

    “All invited to celebrate the rebirth of the parents of the cosmos in , primal mother Danu and sun god Bel.”

    This is a great holiday, the return of the sun! YEAH!!!!

  6. Here’s an interesting comment from one of the players from the article:

    “”We’re all Christians on this team,” said junior inside linebacker Caleb Lavey. “It helps us come together. We really get to know each other. I love everybody on my team. I play my heart out for each individual, and I expect the same for everyone else.”

    All Christians, eh? Well what else could you be? And isn’t that the point of the Courts ruling?

  7. mespo,

    No, but I do have some beautiful deer antlers with a giant sun between the tines!

    Sally,

    No one here is saying a person or group of people should not be proud of being christian. What we are saying is that religion should not be brought into secular, pluralistic situations such as football games taking place at a public school. Not everyone believes in christianity and it isn’t either moral or constitutional to force another person to participate in religion. I also have to wonder, although this has nothing to do with the Constitution, why anyone would pray to god for a sports win. In the scheme of things this seems like a strange request for a diety. As the other team is also praying for a win from the diety and someone will lose, what is god up to?

    rcampbell,

    That was an excellent analysis of the state of our society.

  8. I once travelled to the Soviet Union with a group of students. One student, now a lawyer, was in a wheelchair and we carried him everywhere, even on the escalators, since there were no accommodations for wheelchairs available. People stared at us intently and the only wheelchair I saw besides my friend’s, was in the back to a truck.

    In short, there were no handicapped people visible, thus no one had to consider their rights. They just stayed at home.

    I guess that’s a little like non-Christians in this Texas town. They aren’t known because they have to stay at home. If they speak, they feel “God’s wrath” in the form of people whose Christianity consists not of praying for your enemies or emulating the Beatitudes but in praying to “kick the crap out of the other team in the name of God.”

    It’s like I told my juvenile client last week when he said he was going to blow off the judge’s orders: that’s a choice that you have the freedom to make, but if you make it, the judge is going to take away your freedom by putting you in the Youth Center the next time we’re back in court.”

    They can violate the Court’s order- and some politicians will gladly use the school to endear themselves in the community while railing against this order- but they risk ending up in what Spongebob once called “the stony lonesome.”

  9. Davi:

    Wonderful example of oppression and prejudice hidden by failure to acknowledge its presence. We’ve all had clients like yours who refuse to accept the Judge’s ruling. We usually end up discussing their case from 2-4 p.m. on weekdays through bullet proof glass.

  10. RCampbell,
    I agree with Jill that your description of the damage that Bush’s flaunting of the rule of law has done to some in our society. That is why the Obama administration must take steps to hold any and all lawbeakers accountable for their actions. These Cellini, Texas kids are learning a lesson. Unfortunately, it is that all laws should fail when they allege religious beliefs. I hope that some real adults teach them what the United States Constitution says and that they learn it before it is too late for them.

  11. I’m not so sure arresting these teachers and principal would be a good way to go, just for the visual image of carting otherwise good people and good teachers etc off in handcuffs. We have enough bad press already. But like others I can’t see how we can ignore a Constitutional violation like this.

    I’d cut off funding to the school until they complied. Still wouldn’t make great press but it would be better than the video image of the school leaders being hauled off to jail.

  12. Perhaps other schools could insist that they will not host them if they plan to break the law while on their property. No more away games. Could citizens in other towns sue to set that in motion?

  13. rafflaw,

    It is interesting that the adults are CERTAIN they are teaching these kids to stand up for what is right. There is nothing right about what they are teaching. There are many christians in favor of seperation of church and state, and perhaps some of them could go there for a forum. I don’t think people in this town hear anything other than one party pablum.

    David,

    That was a good analogy to show your point. I’m sure there are people in the town who do not agree, but they could be risking a great deal to speak up.

    waynebro and litzell,

    I think you both came up with good ideas to address this problem.

  14. Every American now knows—from the direct evidence of the current collapse of our financial system—that the Republican’s ‘trickle-down economics’ is a fallacy and a complete failure. Likewise, trickle-down religious fanaticism–derived from Bush’s overbearings religious example–will remain alive-and-well until the Supreme Court also falsifies such religious crusader campaigns by enforcing the provisions of the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

    The following excerpted quotes come from the ADL website that is an excellent resource for the Separation of Church and State explanations.

    .adl.org/issue_religious_freedom/separation_cs_primer_schools.asp

    “By maintaining the wall separating church and state, we can guarantee the continued vitality of religion in American life.”

    “Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black best expressed the purpose and function of the Establishment Clause when he said that it rests “on the belief that a union of government and religion tends to destroy government and degrade religion.”

    “Public school teachers rightly function as important authority figures in the lives of their students. But, under the Constitution, their authority may not extend to matters of religious belief. According to the Supreme Court, the First Amendment requires that public school students never be given the impression that their school officially sanctions religion in general or prefers a specific faith in particular. Further, students must never feel coerced by peer or public pressure into adhering to the dictates of any religion.”

  15. rcampbell,
    To answer an earlier response of yours, our ‘dear Jill’ may reside in Ohio presently, but she is ‘Appalachian’ all the way.

    Case in point…

    —–
    Jill 1, December 21, 2008 at 9:27 am

    A Happy Solsitce to All:

    “All invited to celebrate the rebirth of the parents of the cosmos in , primal mother Danu and sun god Bel.”

    This is a great holiday, the return of the sun! YEAH!!!!

    —–
    Jill 1, September 6, 2008 at 9:17 am

    I have to share what I learned last night concerning slightly malfunctioning toasters, microwave ovens, hair dryers, hillbillies and the FEDS at the:

    Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (you guess the state)

    This is a really cool place with a very large radio telescope. It’s so sensitive that federal agents have shown up at people’s houses within a 10 mile radius of the it to tell them to fix their toasters etc. so not to interfere with the operation of said scope.

    Being of appalachian origin myself I have some sympathy for knocking on the doors of isolated homes in WVA. There have been no killin’s (at least none publically acknowledged).

    http://www.gb.nrao.edu/gbt/

  16. mespo and Jill-
    I’m glad you liked the story.

    Wayne-
    I agree. I can see how my comments looked like I supported that but I really don’t, at least not as a first resort, for contempt of court such as this.

    There’s a great song, covered by the Dixie Chicks and written by one of the Robison boys called “Traveling Soldier” which describes Texas football and goes:

    “One Friday night at a football game,
    The anthem sung and the Lord’s Prayer sang
    A man said folks would you bow your heads
    For a list of local Vietnam dead”

    … that brings home how likely widespread this stuff is in Texas and elsewhere in the Bible Belt. I live in Nebraska and frequently heard prayers at graduation and used to drive by a 10 commandments marker every day in front of the city hall.

    As an ACLU supporter (and, at that time, unbaptized person who was occasionally reminded that I’d eventually burn in hell) I knew these things were likely all unlawful but always thought it best to let sleeping dogs lie, as I had to live in theses small towns too.

  17. I encourage others to read Mr. Tarrell’s blawg. I started reading his informative site today.

    Beware though, he is a criminal defense lawyer! Hey, we have an excellent personal injury lawyer who posts here and the variety of legal opinions is invaluable.

    Given my former profession, and especially when I was younger, I could not understand how an honest person could be a defense attorney. However, I was extremely wrong with my biased and uninformed opinion.

  18. FFLeo:

    At your suggestion I checked out David’s Tarrell’s site. I agree David’s blog is well worth reading.

  19. David,

    Your blog is well written, thoughtful and informative. You are slow to take offense at what I consider rather nasty comments, and this speaks well of you, as does your writing. I’m glad you found this site, glad FFLEO recommended your blog and I bookmarked it! I hope you post here some more also.

    Jill

  20. Jill, Mespo Former Fed and David,
    I looked at David’s site and it is a good one. Congrats David. I will link it to my site. Maybe one or two of my 5 or 6 regulars will take a look at it!

  21. Wayne-
    “I agree. I can see how my comments looked like I supported that but I really don’t, at least not as a first resort, for contempt of court such as this”

    Oh that was just a general comment. It wasn’t addressed to you particularly. I was just suggesting one possible alternative response. But I’m glad you agree. It’s nice to have someone agree with you once in a while, lol.

  22. FFLEO, Jill, Mespo, et al-
    I’m glad you like the blog. Thanks for checking it out. I started blogging early and once commented, upon learning that the feds were monitoring blogs, “at least somebody’s reading this stuff.” BTW,in Nebraska at least, being a criminal defense lawyer means I spend more time as a drug counselor than a litigator.

    Rafflaw-
    I’ve glanced at your blog before and like it, but I’ll read it more carefully when I have more time and link to it. I remember the title as it pretty nicely summarizes a lot of my vacations with the folks.

    Jill-
    I’m glad you noticed that “nasty” comment. I started to react the same way but then it seemed like anger is something the blawgosphere could use a little less of, especially against someone whom I’d likely agree on about 95% of the issues.

    JT-
    I bet you didn’t know you were creating a social networking site here, did you?

  23. I propose a slight modification.

    Let’s say that I’m in a different town – somewhere more main stream, and I play high school intramural football. Every one of the people who I play with happens to be Catholic. In fact, we all met at Mass, so we know that everyone’s of the same religion. It’s not really likely, but that’s how things worked out.

    If in the huddle, one of the guys says “I’d like to ask God to give us strength to play had and with good sportsmanship”, then they all make a very visible sign of the cross, they are breaking the law. I simply just find this hard to swallow. It’s incomprehensible to me (though I’ve been known to be of limited intellect) that a law has actually been enacted that prevents freedom of religion, considering the basis of our country. I understand fully that there are plenty of situations (perhaps even the one mentioned in the article) in which non-religious people’s rights are being infringed upon, and I don’t support that in any way. But one must look at both sides of an issue – there’s a delicate balance between allowing people to practice freely, and protecting individual’s from unwanted religious persuasion.

    I don’t view myself as any sort of religious nut (I’m non practicing), but I certainly feel that free men and women shouldn’t be barred from praying, and that it should certainly not be against the law.

  24. Bill,
    you changed the facts substantially. In your example you made it a voluntary decision by some kids on the floor. In the facts of the subject case it was school policy. I don’t know about you, but praying to God in a basketball game is a bit of an insult to God. Who should he/she support? The most religious or the most athletic? Finally, noone has been talking about barring anyone from praying. That is a myth that Fox News and the religious right promotes. A public school cannot promote religion of any kind. The separation of Church and State actually protects your right to practice the religion that you want without government interference. Without it, we would have the Taliban. I don’t want the Catholic bishops and cardinals deciding our civil laws and without the separation, we could end up in that situation.

  25. Bill:

    The fundamental ignorance of our Constitution and the court decisions affecting it is just astounding. As rafflaw mentions, and probably engendered by the know-nothing, bubble-headed bleach blonds at Fox News, many moderate conservatives fail to realize the separation of church and state doctrine expressly protects the scenario you describe, and prevents one where the coach, as emissary of the state, enforces his religious beliefs on the huddle. Freedom of consceince and freedom from state sponsored religion is what it’s all about.

    We lawyers need to do a better job of defending the Constitution from the intentional misrepresentations of these conservatives lest we have well-intentioned folks like Bill losing faith in a system that already expressly protects the interests he -and we- deem important.

  26. >Troy McCartney noted “In our community we stress God and Jesus very, very much

    I’d be stressed too if my followers were causing such a fuss after I went to such lengths to show them that their faith in me should be a subtle and private thing.

    Not that I have followers.

  27. It is unfortunate that after almost 250 years of constitutional history, we must still debate the prohibition against the establishment of religion by the state. The Celina case is emblematic of the failure of our educational system and of the refusal by otherwise rational people to understand the distinction between a nation comprised predominately of Christians and a Christian nation. The comments by Sally are particularly instructive on this point. No one has a legitimate reason to object to the expression of another’s religious viewpoint. What is objectionable is the imposition of that viewpoint by the state at any level of government. That is what has happened at Celina, and it is repeated each day in many communities across the country. And in Celina, as elsewhere, there are individuals who dare not voice their opposition for fear of social ostracism and, in some cases, political reprisal. When the judicial system, the branch of government least able to defend itself, enters the inevitable orders striking down the Celinas of the world, the equally inevitable response is attacks by know-nothing politicians against “activist” judges and increasing disrespect for the rule of law. The position of Christian conservatives in places such as Celina is identical to the mindset that views criticism of terrorism as an attack against Islam. Perhaps ironically, it also proves the wisdom of the founders’ insistence that government and religion each be free of interference by the other. When will we finally come to understand this fundamental truth?

  28. Blasphemy is taking God’s name in vain and/or diminishing the deity. How is it not blasphemous to believe that the creative force behind the universe is involved in a high school football game? These religious loonies are so self-involved that they do not realize that these prayers serve to diminish the God they profess to believe in. By the standards of the teachings of their own religion they are manifestly guilty of both blasphemy and heresy. I could just see Jesus cheering at a football game, or taking sides. How stupidly sad.

  29. This is from an interesting article on Alternet of today:

    “And especially in small rural towns, anti-atheist bigotry can turn truly ugly. Being an out atheist means risking ostracism and worse. Out atheist teenagers have been kicked out of public school programs, and then kicked out of public school. Out atheists have been the targets of vandalism and death threats. Even believers can be targeted with anti- atheist ostracism, threats, and vandalism, if they’re perceived as being atheists because of their stance on separation of church and state (such as the anti- intelligent- design activists in Dover, Pennsylvania).

    And I’m just talking about the U.S., where atheists are, at least in theory, guaranteed equal protection and freedom of non-religion under the 1st and 14th amendments. I’m not even talking about overt theocracies, where denying the existence of God will earn you a death sentence.”

  30. “…many moderate conservatives fail to realize the separation of church and state doctrine expressly protects the scenario you describe, and prevents one where the coach, as emissary of the state, enforces his religious beliefs on the huddle.”

    Is this true? Everyone making the sign of a cross before a play, from a public school? I’m positive there would be some action taken. I haven’t taken any constitutional law classes yet, so I really don’t know jack squat about any of this, but I certainly imagine that there’d be a witch hunt if the situation I described happened.

  31. David,
    “I guess that’s a little like non-Christians in this Texas town. They aren’t known because they have to stay at home. If they speak, they feel “God’s wrath” in the form of people whose Christianity consists not of praying for your enemies or emulating the Beatitudes but in praying to “kick the crap out of the other team in the name of God.”

    Wow. It’s like you live in Texas. Here, the first question you get when you meet someone is “what church do you go to?” If you answer none or blow off the answer, well…

    Here we have these annoying fish symbols on windows of businesses as well as cars. Very clique-ish. One big snobby clique.

  32. yes, some Christians are like that, and it makes the rest of us seem that way too, but not all Christians are like that. Most Christians in fact are caring people who wouldn’t discriminate because you don’t go to church. PLEASE oh PLEASE if you do anything with your life (and i sincerely hope you do, sorry, i dont mean to offend anyone, its just a VERY BIG issue for me. I get judged because of mean Christians all the time) DON’T discriminate against Christians because of the ones you have met in your hometown!

  33. Mike Spindell 1, December 22, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Blasphemy is taking God’s name in vain and/or diminishing the deity. How is it not blasphemous to believe that the creative force behind the universe is involved in a high school football game? These religious loonies are so self-involved that they do not realize that these prayers serve to diminish the God they profess to believe in. By the standards of the teachings of their own religion they are manifestly guilty of both blasphemy and heresy. I could just see Jesus cheering at a football game, or taking sides. How stupidly sad.

    im sorry, but i have to disagree. the bible says that God takes a PERSONAL interest in our lives. If that means High School football games, then so be it. It is blasphemous to think that God can’t be saving someone’s life while cheering for a High School team. Is He not up for the task? And i don’t think that these kids are asking God to help them “kick ass”. I think these kids are asking God to let what they do with their bodies in the game they play GLORIFY HIM.

  34. “im sorry, but i have to disagree. the bible says that God takes a PERSONAL interest in our lives.”
    *********

    I have read the document cover to cover and never seen those words. Maybe you could show me where is says God cares one wit about anything we do.

  35. mespo,

    it could be inferred that they are special. But some would say that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. Which I think conflicts with Genesis which states that we are all created in gods image.

    How about this for a Bumper Sticker “Jesus Love You, But I am his Favorite.”

  36. How about this actual sign I saw in front of a church in rural Louisiana (and you have no idea how many times I wish I’d had a camera that day)?

    “Jesus Loves blank blank Church –
    The rest of you are on your own.”

    I laughed so hard I had to pull over to the side of the road to finish. When I told Jesus about it, he didn’t see the humor in it.

  37. Amen, Amen and I say unto thee, that is why Louisiana was on its own. I am a part of my fathers house that has been cast out and I am looking for new members. You see and know some of the best disciples that we have had in this century giving you directions to the ways. Please note GW was appointed as my divine disciple, The Prince of Softness. Cheney as the Prince of Manly Men and Obama as the prince of Darkness.

    The above was meant only as humor.

  38. Я подписался на вашу РСС ленту, но посты почему-то в виде каких-то квадратиков :( Как это исправить?

Comments are closed.