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Arkansas State removing cross decal from football helmets

Arkansas State Red Wolves quarterback Fredi Knighten (9) during the first quarter against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium on Sept. 6, 2014. Photo by Randy Sartin, courtesy of USA TODAY Sports
Arkansas State Red Wolves quarterback Fredi Knighten (9) during the first quarter against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium on Sept. 6, 2014. Photo by Randy Sartin, courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

Arkansas State Red Wolves quarterback Fredi Knighten (9) during the first quarter against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium on Sept. 6, 2014. Photo by Randy Sartin, courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

(RNS) Arkansas State is removing a Christian cross decal from the back of its football helmets after a complaint that it violated separation of church and state, the university said Wednesday (Sept. 10).

Athletics director Terry Mohajir said he wanted to fight the decision because the decal was intended to honor former player Markel Owens and equipment manager Barry Weyer, who both died this year. However, Mohajir said he had little choice but to follow advice from the university’s legal counsel to remove or modify the symbol.

“My job is to support our players and our coaches in their expression of any type of grief, and that’s what I was doing,” Mohajir said.

Rebecca Markert, an attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, said her organization had been looking into the matter since hearing about the decals over the weekend but had not yet lodged a formal complaint with Arkansas State.

“That is great news,” Markert said of the school’s decision. “Putting religious imagery on public school property is unconstitutional.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been looking into potential church-state separation issues at college football programs during the past year, particularly at Clemson and Ole Miss. Markert said the organization recently filed an open records request with Ole Miss regarding its chaplain program.

According to documents provided to USA Today by Arkansas State, Jonesboro, Ark., attorney Louis Nisenbaum sent an email to University Counsel Lucinda McDaniel on Saturday, pointing out that he noticed the crosses while watching Arkansas State’s game at Tennessee earlier that day.

“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.”

On Monday, McDaniel emailed Mohajir, saying she found no specific legal cases that addressed crosses on football helmets but recommending that the bottom of the cross could be cut off so the symbol would be a plus sign.

“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,” she wrote. “Persons viewing the helmets will, and have, seen the symbol as a cross and interpreted that symbol as an endorsement of the Christian religion. This violates the legal prohibition of endorsing religion.”

Mohajir said the original idea for the decal came from a leadership committee of players and that wearing it was voluntary.

“Any time our players have an expression of faith and wanting to honor two members of the football program, I’m 100 percent behind them,” he said. ​


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Dan Wolken


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  • Freedom From Religion Foundation – Fighting the attempts at a “christian caliphate” in America by protecting non-christians constitutional rights.
    Thank you!

  • The separation clause states that the government would make no proclamation of a national religion. We are a nation founded on principles of the Christian faith, if you don’t like it, leave.

  • Ha ha ha ha ha! Why do you hate the Constitution so much, Country Pastor? Or, are you one of those folks who thinks it’s OK to pick and choose the parts of the Constitution that you think are best. If you are, you couldn’t be more un-American, brah. Seriously.

  • What principles of the Christian faith are you referring to CP?

    There is no mention of Jesus nor the Bible in our Constitution. Not even a reference to the Biblical God.

    Our country does not belong to Christians or any other faith. It belongs to everyone. Why do you hate our country so much?

  • “… the [cross] decal was intended to honor former player Markel Owens and equipment manager Barry Weyer, who both died this year.”

    They died by crucifixion?

  • Whatabuncha…
    there is no separation of church and state… there is only a clause that says the state cant pick one and lift it above others, and this would include athiesm, etc…

    the left which is atheist by its communist/socialist nature, is playing a game… go read it… in fact, its not the separation clause its the establishment clause… the point was not to make a “church of america” like the church of england… or have the leaders be the protectorate of a religion

    in fact, these moves are actually against the free exercise clause!
    [there is no requirement to equally exercise all religions either]

    the estabilshment clause, which states
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion

    The Free Exercise Clause, which states::
    or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

    not only that, but the clause has no bearing on anyone BUT congress
    it says nothing about offices in state, or colleges, etc..

    and the removal of prayer and all that only has application once the state took over education… prior to that, the schools could do what they wanted… heck, prior to that they could educate… rather than pick winners and losers and play games tyring to make a slave population for the use of wealthy people to have “workers”… or are you too young to remember that the “personel departments” changed to “human resources” better befitting the concept of “control of the means of production”?

    here is a kicker…
    given that the swastika is technically a bhuddist symbol, and is used as such all over asia, they would have to allow it for that reason, or else be in violation of the establishment clause!

  • Wrong on so many levels.

    The separation of church and state is the concept behind that clause which you mangled so badly. Its like saying monotheism is not part of Christianity because the phrase is not mentioned in the Bible.

    The state can’t favor one religion over another because it is separate from them in their entirety. It means for the most part ecumenialism. Embrace everything or avoid it altogether. The government can’t protect the free exercise of religion if it is entangled with any given faiths/sects (and therefore showing favoritism).

    All you are really saying is you don’t like religious freedom because you want your faith to be dominant under the law. That is as unamerican as it gets. Both you and CP hate America so much that you want to attack the freedoms of others to get your way.

    “not only that, but the clause has no bearing on anyone BUT congress
    it says nothing about offices in state, or colleges, etc.”

    Did you fail 5th grade history? The 14th Amendment takes the entire Bill of Rights and applies them to state and local governments under the aegis of Equal Protection Under the Law. ALL government institutions are controlled by it.

  • Jesus died on a stake, not a cross; but I still don’t know why the means of Jesus death is idolized or worshiped today by many persons and religions these days. Our exclusive worship should go to God, the Father of Christ Jesus.

  • No, not really. Most founders did believe in a deity, some considered themselves christian, but all knew the folly in marrying one religion to a government.

    Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.
    Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper (February 10, 1814)
    3rd president of US (1743 – 1826

  • somedude,
    Protecting the Constitution of our great country is not petty.
    Hate away, we are used to it. 😉

  • FFRF just keeps lying. First, no such thing as separation of church and state. Second, FFRF, like with 99% of their “wins” is just bluffing, because they really only have a small amount of funds to bring real lawsuits. They’re banking that schools, cities, etc… will worry about a potential lawsuit, and just simply concede, which is what happened here. Third, FFRF continues to mis-represent the statistics by saying that “20% are non-religious.” All the poll indicated was that 20% of the population doesn’t identify with one particular religion (i.e. Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, etc…) So, a person could be a God-loving Christian, but just isn’t sure which Church this currently want to attend.

    Their goal is to lie and deceive like the devil, because they know they can’t win with facts.

    Seriously, how sad and pathetic does a group of people have to be to make a demand like that when these players were trying to honor fallen teammates.

  • There is nothing true in anything you just said. You feel the need to lie for Jesus. How pathetic.

    Separation of Church and State is ingrained into our system. It is what kept our government from exiling all Catholics (as John Jay had proposed) and keeps our government from descending into theocracy.

    Rick, obviously democracy and religious freedom means nothing to you. You work under the naive assumption that Christians deserve some kind of special favor or privilege from our government because…Jesus said so.

    FFRF are simply responding to idiocy by certain Christians who think they can put their tramp stamps all over government and public life.

  • Rick,
    99% do not go to court against FFRF because they consult attorneys who are educated in the laws of our land and they find out from them what they are doing isn’t constitutional and they correctly stop the action, like this school.

  • Freedom From Religion starts with the simple choice of whether to accept religion as one’s own, or to reject it. To expect to be free of those with opposing creeds, beliefs, etc.. is absolutely ludicrous and against the American way! What makes FFR any more important than those who wish to live as Christians!!?? If Christians wish to practice their religion in the public square, it hurts no one, other than those who choose to be offended by it. I personally am offended by rap music. Does this give me the authority to ban it by starting my own foundation against it?? FFRF is simply that- a hate group, and nothing more! Live and let live, and stop forcing YOUR choices upon my choice to love my God!

  • Tony, why do you have to lie in order to make your point? Is your religious belief so weak that you cannot use facts to support a position?

    Nobody is talking about the right of Christians to practice their religion in public. They are talking about the GOVERNMENT practicing Christianity in public. The government, which is meant to represent all people and all faiths (even those without any). The government which has coercive power under the color of law to see its will done. It is absolutely ludicrous to claim that the government protects religious freedom of all when it is clearly favoring one faith over another in public and in its activities.

    What you are saying is you want the government to favor Christianity and all other beliefs can go F themselves. That is what a hate group says.

    FRFF is trying to protect all faiths by ensuring our government does not deliberately favor or endorse any given religious belief.

  • That’s a good point that is mistaken.
    It is Jesus who gives us the symbol of his greatest of all sacrifices, his death that gave us life. He could have chosen anything, but he chose a cross. It is the most recognized symbol in the world. Constantine was told he would conquer his enemies with the sign of the cross. It tells us that the greatest love of all is to lay down our lives for someone our friends. The cross cannot be separated from Jesus Christ+++++++

  • E,

    The cross has been used in so many ways, good (symbolically in relation to carrying something of great weight that provides breath for others) and bad (the dark side of religion where the crucifixion is used as a weapon to deny and accuse, even abuse, others), so I will not comment on this article in taking either position. I just wanted to say that the label “jagoff” is a Pittsburgh term. I remember it well 🙂 … although I never used it myself.
    Pittsburgh is a wonderful CITY, as is Philadelphia (of PA). The ‘burbs’ are varied.

    Oh, and I have been labeled on the Ratzinger article … you are not alone.

    Peace and Love

  • Honoring the fallen teammates is a wonderful thing. But leave religion out of it if symbols are to be placed on state owned property. I don’t like the idea of a tax supported entity sponsoring any religion, even my own. Look to the Middle East to see how dangerous a theocracy can be.

  • Another ignoramus who thinks Christians should be treated special and feels he is entitled to my tax dollars to fund his faith. Well Alexius, you aren’t. Its one of our first rules in our little democracy. You might have heard of it. But I doubt it.

    “Do not give the bs of the Constitution.”

    Because you don’t believe in it! We get that. 🙂

  • Meant as a term of affection….right? Loved the Steelers, but Savanah is my town. Saw the thread….sheesh. Still, more love than hate in this world.

    Peace and love.

  • What exactly is your problem with Chritianity? Love of neighbor? Etrnal Life, Forgiveness, Freedom of worship or not to worship at all. Christianity does not impose, in fact cannot impose beliefs, either you believe or you dont. What Christianity does require– from Christians, is love of neighbor and forgiveness and of course love of God. What exactly do you find so offensive?

  • Larry, Why do you continue to call others liers and to deceive? There was no overt support or sponsoring for a specific religion simply by putting a cross on the helmet.

    1st Admendment:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

  • There is a simple solution. Every player should wear the cross and that’s it. The atheists or anti Christian bigots no don’t like it don’t have to. There is NO separation between Church and state anywhere and to compare a Muslim Caliphate with football players honoring their friends wearing a cross is simply ignorant. Bottom line just wear it. Nobody can stop you.

  • Ridiculous – comparing what is going on in the middle east to keeping a cross on a helmet which is a reminder of God’s sacrifice for his people. It hasn’t done any harm in the many years it has been there! Wake up!

  • I am so tired of people misinterpreting the separation of church statement. It does not mean what they are saying it does. It means the state, or the government may not start a religion of which they are the head. Wake up folks and protest when they misuse this statement.

  • Because ignorance doesn’t explain the levels of misrepresentation being given. Stuff that everyone from grade school onwards knows. So the alternative to ignorance, in the face of such lack of correct statements of fact, has to be dishonesty.

    The separation of church and state exists and is codified in our 1st Amendment [Artfldgr denied this]

    We are not a nation which is supposed to provide favoritism to Christians [Alexius Comnenus made such claims]

    Religious expression by government is much different from those done by individuals [Tony misrepresented that one]

    “There was no overt support or sponsoring for a specific religion simply by putting a cross on the helmet. ”

    Now who is being dishonest here? The cross is the symbol of what religion? There are less overtly sectarian ways to honor fallen players. Typically their jersey numbers are used in such situations (and subsequently retired).

  • We don’t have an autocratic government to rail about. So its the little transgressions to our normally democratic system that get people annoyed.

  • Or do something less divisive and sane, like the player’s jersey numbers. The state endorsing religion is establishment of religion. Government must neither favor nor attack any given faith.

    Why do Christians in a democratic nation have such a problem understanding this? Are they so tone deaf to others or just hate religious freedom?

  • I am looking forward to the day when the flag of Allah is raised above the White House as ISIS has promised . And what will our friends from the Freedom from Religion organization say? Like most cowardly liberals, who seek to destroy the Christian foundation of America, in an attemp to keep their heads on their shoulders will say, “There is no god but Allah and Mohammad is his prophet!.” So keep on with your anti Christan campaign, and your bogus “separation of church and state” argument which weakens our nation, it will soon be over. Looking forward to seeing all you liberals at the local Mosque five times a day for prayer. And if you know what is good for you, you better be there!

  • Exactly where in the US Constitution is there ANY reference to a separation between the Church & the State? That was only to be found in the USSR’s Constitution.

  • separation church x states law does not exist.

    see: NYC Adminitration Mayor support YOGA (hinduism foreing religion) ATHLETA, at BRYANT PARK show several times with clean landscap, big sound, a lot emploee, computers, police, free and clean matts, with my and yours taxes.

  • Paul, I don’t specifically find Christianity offensive, nor do I find any other religious belief offensive in of itself. I do have other opinions of them but I’ll leave them out of this reply.
    Tell me, if the athletic director happened to be a satin worshiper would you be alright with an upside down cross? If he were Jewish, would a star of David be good for you? If the Muslim faith had a symbol and they used it, would you have no issue?
    You see, I would in all cases, not because I find the religion offensive, but rather with the promotion of any religion by any entity that is supported by tax dollars.
    It is disingenuous (kind choice of word) to be am right with a cross being displayed, but be opposed to any other religious symbol.

  • Try reading about Roger Williams and William Penn. They predated the Constitution by about a century. It was their concepts and the governing principles of Rhode Island and Pennsylvania which guided our 1st Amendment religious freedoms. This was at a time when the majority of the 13 colonies had established state run churches.

    Separation of Church and State is the essence of the Establishment Clause and the principle which protects free exercise of religion.

  • That was an opinion unique to Jefferson, and erroneous. It actually had to do with the supposed mistranslation of a word in a Norman French commentary upon the origins of English common law. Jefferson claimed that a word translated “holy scripture” should have been translated “ancient scripture” or “ancient writings” instead. However, this in and of itself did not establish his conclusion because 1. the common law developed over centuries and does not consist only of principles that predate the Christianization of Britain, and 2. the first known ancient legal writings date from after the Christianization of Britain.

    Joseph Story, who exercised a massive influence over the development of American jurisprudence during his long service as Chief Justice of the SCOTUS and Harvard law professor, acknowledged in Vidal vs. Girard’s Executors that Christianity was a part of the common law, and agreed with the founders about the indispensability of religion, piety and virtue to the well-being of the state and the efficacy of civil justice.

  • Not really.

    To messers. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.
    The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.
    Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.
    I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.
    Th Jefferson
    Jan. 1. 1802.

  • What does Jefferson’s Danbury letter have to do with any of this? Religious establishment is an entirely different issue from simple recognition that the common law has Christian elements.

  • An entirely nonsense statement because you cannot clearly identify what about our common-law is uniquely Christian?

  • The common law included laws concerning sabbaths, blasphemy, church propery, marriage, and oath -taking, for example. Also, in a much more general sense, a more individualistic and less tribal concept of moral culpability — in that responibility for wrongs and their redress lies with the individual and not his family or tribe. Of course, as has been noted before, the notion that human rights are individualistic and not tribal in origin is also Judeo Christian in nature.

  • “Unconstitutional”?

    The constitution says that CONGRESS shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Let’s see: ASU is not congress. The state of Arkansas is not congress. No one made a law that anyone had to wear a cross.

    So this is “unconstitutional” only in the minds of people who make things up. And it is just as stupid as the fact that ASU changed its mascot from Indian Joe to the Red Wolves to accommodate a bunch of whiney cry baby leftist morons.

    I think its high time some conservative legal groups brought some lawsuits against the state schools which teach all manner of anti-Christian religious dogma.

  • Not Common Law by definition. Common law frequently referred to dispute resolution among the non-nobility, property laws, marriage rights (which had zero to do with any Christian teachings once wives were no longer considered property), and the flow of commerce.

    All of these had their roots in British/American culture through the Norman conquest of England. Normans wanted to keep conquered lands Norman and had to administrate a majority population which was not. It was secular in nature because of the constant conflicts between church and civil authority. Churches many times had their own courts and rules. You are conflating and confusing two different forms of authority.

    “the notion that human rights are individualistic and not tribal in origin is also Judeo Christian in nature.”

    Yet the history of Christianity and its churches undermined such notions.

  • Hi, I don’t understand why we that follow The Lord and believe that He sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins are so concerned with others sins, first make sure you have examined your own hearts and have repented…..meaning not saying sorry and continuing to commit the same sin. And arguing about the cross is why God gave the second commandment ( You shall not make…) We spend more time arguing with others then loving them. Not loving or condoning the sin but loving one another. Remember he who is without sin cast the first stone. And why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brothers eye, and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? Maybe showing acts of love and kindness might be more affective then words of hate and judgement. It’s hard for hypocrites to set an example of who Jesus was and the love He showed. Just a thought and all the religious Christians please feel free to share your thoughts to me.