The First Amendment came under attack once again when the Arkansas State University football team was forced to take cross decals off its helmets.
For two weeks, crosses have graced the sides of players’ helmets to honor teammate Barry Weyer and equipment manager Markel Owens, both Christians who died earlier this year in separate accidents, Fox News reported.
“The players knew they were both Christians, so they decided to use the cross along with their initials,” Barry Weyer Sr., whose son was killed in a car accident in June, told Fox News’ Todd Starnes. “They wanted to carry the spirits of Markel and Barry Don onto the field for one more season.”
No one complained, and the team even had the approval of school Athletic Director Terry Mohajir, Starnes reported.
But after Arkansas’ game against the Tennessee Volunteers, the university’s legal department received a complaint from Jonesboro attorney Louis Nisenbaum.
“That is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause as a state endorsement of the Christian religion,” Nisenbaum wrote, according to Fox News. “Please advise whether you agree and whether ASU will continue this practice.”
Fearing further legal action, a school attorney instructed Mohajir to remove the team’s crosses or change them into non-religious symbols.
“If the bottom of the cross can be cut off so that the symbol is a plus sign (+) there should be no problem,” Lucinda McDaniel wrote in the email to Mohajir. “It is the Christian symbol which has caused the legal objection.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which describes itself “as an umbrella for those who are free from religion and are committed to the cherished principle of separation of state and church,” praised the decision. It even suggested that players could better honor their friends by wearing “another symbolic gesture free from religion imagery.”
Weyer said the attacks on religious freedoms are getting old.
“It’s time that we as Christians stand up and say we’re tired of being pushed around,” Weyer said. “We’re tired of having to bow down to everyone else’s rights. What happened to our rights? The last time I checked, it said freedom of religion – not freedom from religion.”
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