Commentary: Ban the banner?

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Written by: Co-managing editor: Jared Reed

Move over “8 seconds”. The New Palestine High School Dragons football team has a new motto. It goes, “I can do all things….”

Earlier last week, a giant banner went up over the bleachers at Kelso Stadium. The banner showed a Dragons football player alongside an unfinished quote reading “I can do all things….” However the most important part of that banner can be found in the bottom left where it’s revealed through a fairly large logo, that a religious group was the sponsor for this banner.

With this quote attached to a Realife Christian Church, it is very easy to figure out the full version of this quote. Coming from Philippians 4:13 the full quote reads “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Greenfield-Central had a similar occurrence where a potential sponsor wanted to put “#BlessTheWorld” on their football field, which would be permanently written on the field . However G-CHS wasn’t so sure about its legality so their school board asked to review the phrase before accepting the money, but the sponsor withdrew the proposal before it could vote. Another problem “#BlessTheWorld” may have was its call-to-action phrase that more heavily enforced the religion.

When I first saw the banner I was shocked to be honest. I questioned the legality of a public school being sponsored by a religious group.  However this is not something out of the ordinary for public schools. This is just an exercise of the first amendment right.

NPHS principal Keith Fessler said, “The church on the banner is a sponsor of our Athletic Department. We have a number of sponsors, some of which are churches. We’re not telling anyone they have to go to that particular church, just like we’re not telling anyone they have to go to any of the businesses that sponsor us. The banner was purchased by the church, not the Athletic Department.”

To anyone who questions the legal side of this, is most likely thinking of an endorsement, in which the school would be enforcing their beliefs. But in this case it is totally legal because it is a sponsorship where the money is being used purely as advertising to spread their own individual message.

The sponsorship does create a new precedent however, as by law public schools have to allow all potential religious group sponsors the same opportunity as this one. Meaning now any religion can sponsor NPHS. Even a one that promoted the existence of a flying spaghetti monster.

The banner is currently down due to being blown over by wind, but is planned to go back up soon.

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