- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 14, 2014

A high school cheerleading squad has asked the Texas Supreme Court to weigh in on religious banners they want to make for football games.

A petition for review was filed this month on behalf of Kountze High School cheerleaders, asking the court to declare their banners an example of free speech.

An appeals court earlier declared the issue moot after dueling lawsuits filed on behalf of the cheerleaders and the Freedom From Religion Foundation made their way through Texas’ judicial system.

The appeals court made the ruling “because there was no longer a case or controversy once [the school district] voluntarily announced that it intends to allow religious messages on the cheerleaders’ banners.”

The cheerleaders in their petition expressed worry that if “the decision stands — and [the school district] is allowed to continue erroneously characterizing the banners as government speech — the days of the cheerleaders exercising their constitutional rights are numbered.”

According to the petition, cheerleaders have designed the banners for more than 20 years and recently started to include Bible verses “to provide encouragement and positive support to the student athletes.”

Ebola outrage 

As if the Ebola outbreak in West Africa couldn’t get any worse, the Religion News Service reports that some church leaders are claiming the crisis is actually a curse from God.

The news service reported that Wilmot Kotati Bobbroh, leader of the Living Water Pentecostal Church in Liberia, said the outbreak is “a national curse brought by God to force repentance.”

That belief is gaining popularity in Sierra Leone, the news service reported.

And in Liberia, more than 100 Christian leaders this month announced that God is angry at “sins including corruption and immoral acts such as homosexuality,” and that Ebola is a plague.

Picket pasties? 

A strip club owner in northeast Ohio recently gave a nearby church a taste of its own medicine when about 30 people, a few of them topless, protested the house of worship that routinely pickets the club.

The Coshocton Tribune reports that employees and supporters of Foxhole North peacefully protested outside the New Beginnings Ministries church in Warsaw, Ohio, whose members have been picketing the strip club for nearly a decade.

Club owner Thomas George said the demonstration was held to show “how it feels to be under scrutiny.”

“They come up every weekend,” he said of church members who protest outside his business. “They’re very abusive and certainly not Christian-like — not [like] what I read in my Bible. I have to point out the hypocrisy I see and not stand by and let this go on week in and week out.”

The club has tried to get an injunction against the protesters to no avail, the Tribune reported.

The Rev. Bill Dunfee, the church’s pastor, said he plans to “directly confront the situation” beginning with Sunday school this weekend.

Climbing Krishna 

What is the youngest age for someone to climb atop a human pyramid during a popular Hindu celebration? Twelve, India’s top court ruled Thursday on the practice that has seen several deaths and injuries in past years.

Devotees celebrate the birthday of the child god Krishna each August by forming a pyramid, with the last climber, usually a child, clambering to the top to break the “dahi handi,” an earthen pot filled with curd. This honors Krishna’s effort to steal butter.

Hundreds of thousands of cheering people join the ceremony every year, but several children have been killed, injured or disabled in falls from pyramids that can reach 40 feet high.

A court in Mumbai last week set the country’s first age limit for participants at 18, The Associated Press reported. The Mumbai court also said the pyramids must not exceed 20 feet.

But the Supreme Court put that ruling on hold Thursday and said children who have reached their 12th birthday can participate. It will give its final verdict in the case after hearing arguments of the petitioners, rights activists and the government.

Meredith Somers covers faith issues for The Washington Times.

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