Football team forced to remove Christian crosses from helmets

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Football team forced to remove Christian crosses from helmets

By Todd Starnes | Foxnews

660-Arkansas-StateFootball players at Arkansas State University were ordered to either remove a Christian cross decal from their helmets or modify it into a mathematical sign after a Jonesboro attorney complained that the image violated the U.S. Constitution.

The cross decal was meant to memorialize former player Markel Owens and former equipment manager Barry Weyer, said athletic director Terry Mohajir.  Weyer was killed in a June car crash. Owens was gunned down in Tennessee in January.

These young men were simply trying to do a good deed. They were standing up for their fallen teammates. It’s really too bad the university could not stand up for the team.

Barry Weyer, Sr., told me that the players and coaches voluntarily decided to memorialize his son and Owens.

“The players knew they were both Christians so they decided to use the cross along with their initials,” he said. “They wanted to carry the spirits of Markel and Barry Don onto the field for one more season.”

It was a decision that had the full support of the university’s athletic director.

“I support our students’ expression of their faith,” Mohajir said. “I am 100 percent behind our students and coaches.”

However, the athletic director said he had no choice but to remove the crosses after he received a message from the university’s legal counsel.

“It is my opinion that the crosses must be removed from the helmets,” University counsel Lucinda McDaniel wrote to Mohajir. “While we could argue that the cross with the initials of the fallen student and trainer merely memorialize their passing, the symbol we have authorized to convey that message is a Christian cross.”

According to documents provided to me by Arkansas State, McDaniel gave the football team a choice – they could either remove the cross or modify the decal. And by modify – she meant deface.

“If the bottom of the cross can be cut off so that the symbol is a plus sign (+) there should be no problem,” she wrote. “It is the Christian symbol which has caused the legal objection.”

The team had been wearing the decals for two weeks without any complaints. That changed after last Saturday’s nationally televised game against the Tennessee Volunteers.

Jonesboro attorney Louis Nisenbaum sent McDaniel an email complaining about the cross decal.

“That is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause as a state endorsement of the Christian religion,” Nisenbaum wrote. “Please advise whether you agree and whether ASU will continue this practice.”

Ironically, the university’s legal counsel admitted in a letter that there were no specific court cases that addressed crosses on football helmets. Nevertheless, she feared the possibility of a lawsuit.

“It is my opinion that we will not prevail on that challenge and must remove the crosses from the helmets or alter the symbols so that they are a (plus sign) instead of a cross,” she wrote in an email to the athletic director.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation fired off a letter congratulating the university on cleansing the helmets of the Christian symbol.

“The crosses appeared to confer State’s endorsement of religion, specifically Christianity,” the FFRF wrote. “The inclusion of the Latin cross on the helmets also excludes the 19 percent of the American population that is non-religious.”

FFRF co-presidents Annie Lauire Gaylor and Dan Barker went so far as to suggest alternative ways for the football players to mourn.

“Many teams around the country honor former teammates by putting that player’s number on their helmets or jerseys, or by wearing a black armband,” they wrote. “Either of those options, or another symbolic gesture free from religion imagery, would be appropriate.”

That suggestion set off the athletic director.

“I don’t even kinda-sorta care about any organization that tells our students how to grieve,” Mohajir told me. “Everybody grieves differently. I don’t think anybody has the right to tell our students how to memorialize their colleagues, their classmates or any loved ones they have.”

While Mr. Weyer told me he supports the university “100 percent”, he said he took great offense at the FFRF’s attack.

“The fact is the cross was honoring two fallen teammates who just happened to be Christians,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “I just have a hard time understanding why we as Christians have to be tolerant of everybody else’s rights, but give up ours.”

I do, too, Mr. Weyer. I do, too.

Liberty Institute attorney Hiram Sasser told me he would be more than honored to represent the football team in a lawsuit against the university.

“It is outrage that the university defacing the cross and reducing it to what the university calls a plus sign,” he told me. “It is disgusting.”

Sasser said the students are well within their rights to wear a cross decal on their helmets and accused the university of breaking the law.

“It is unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination to force the players to remove or alter the cross on their helmets that they chose themselves simply because the cross is religious,” Sasser said.

These young men were simply trying to do a good deed. They were standing up for their fallen teammates. It’s really too bad the university could not stand up for the team.

“The university and others want football players to be positive role models in the community, but as soon as the players promote a positive message honoring their former teammates – the university discriminates against them in a blatant violation of the Constitution.”

Mr. Weyer said he’s not a political man – but he is a Christian man. And he’s tired of having to kowtow to the politically correct crowd.

“It’s time that we as Christians stand up and say we’re tired of being pushed around,” he 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.”

Well said, Mr. Weyer. Well said.

16 Comments on “Football team forced to remove Christian crosses from helmets”

  1. Hypatia

    I would ask the question, if the teammates “just happened to be” Jewish, would the team have put stars of David on their helmets? If they had been Muslims, would they have put the star and crescent on their helmets? If they had, would there have been an outcry about the team putting non-Christian symbols on their helmets? If you honestly answer these questions (“no” and “yes” respectively) then I think you have to conclude that they intended to support a specific religion, not just have a tribute to their teammates that would treat all teammates of any religion the same way.

    1. Iris

      Interesting question….and we will never know that answer because the teammates in question WERE Christian. The next time another team has players they wish to remember, and choose to use their religious symbol, I guess you will have your answer. Until then, Christians have the same rights and freedoms as everyone else. When will we be allowed to display it without controversy??? Peace :-)

    1. Hypatia

      You cannot force a person to have a belief. So how can you have freedom “of” religion without also having freedom “from” religion? A person must be as free to disbelieve as they are to believe.

      As far as whether government institutions should be displaying religious symbols, well, all I can say is that if you allow one, you must allow all, or else you are establishing a government religion. That is what leads to things like satanist statues on the courthouse lawn, and prayers to open city meetings from sects that many do not approve of. Isn’t it simpler, fairer, and less contentious just to keep government institutions out of religion?

  2. Heath Burns

    Praise God!!! The Bible tells us to rejoice when we come under persecution!!! You don’t see Americans removing little fat men statues or removing symbols of Muslims. It’s because their truth is not TRUTH!!! Jesus’s Word is like a double edge sword. It Convicts us of our sins.

    Matthew 2:(11-12) – 11. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

  3. jack

    Exodus 20 ; 4 .This is going to be long . First my sympathy to the families of the men who passed . We as followers must learn to follow the whole WORD . This symbol ( the cross ) has been around a long time , even before CHRIST walked this earth . We have to some times let things go . Not every battle will be won . These men must have been special to the team for them to even consider this gesture . I get that . But being a believer is not about symbols , but being reflections of GOD , so that those in the the dark can see our light shine and follow to the true LIGHT OF WORLDS . Some people wear dreads locks, does not mean they are Rastafarian .
    It, just fashion . Our LORD told us that these things are not important and will not last . It,s just an image .

  4. Pupdawg

    Hypatia bringing up scenarios dont adress what ACTUALLY HAPPENED! It was a Christian cross. Speak on that, and dont stay away from what happened! It was wrong for them to have to remove it period!

  5. frank

    Just another example of lack of courage from counsel and the University caving to an offended person. The squeaky wheel always gets the grease. We have become a society that panders to whiners.

  6. blake

    I would have fought tooth and nail to keep the symbol I don’t care what those satanists say, I’d lose my job before succumbing to those morons!

  7. Rebecca

    “Proves once again the message of the cross offends” Jesus the way the truth the life,I just pray that God have mercy as the US along with the rest of the world as it continues to push and to remove God and silence the faith.

    Sydney – Australia :)

  8. Harvie

    How sad it is to make such a fuss over a simple jesture of kindness, or even to take offense at this simbol of love. Each season most football leagues pay homage to those fallen or still in the fight against breast cancer. We are not offended by this ack of love. I’ve never heard of anyone offended by players clad in pink with the ribbon decals on their helmets. The player on this team are not trying proselytize others to Christ. They are simply bringing awareness to their grief. I guess the positive thing is that those offended have, by their complaint, brought more attention to the Christ behind the cross. I believe the players should have the freedom to express their grief as a team, in the manner they have chosen much like other players and teams bring awareness to breast cancer.

  9. Keyah

    Signs of the times. Not surprised at all. This nation is WICKED!!!! They applauded Michael Sam for coming out and expressing his lifestyle, but if someone comes out and says they’re a Christian, then they have to stop that immediately. Such hypocrisy that people can promote their perversion, but others can’t promote righteousness. smh.

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