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Will the U.S. Supreme Court Hear the Pensacola Cross Case?

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upholding a lower court’s ruling that a cross in Pensacola’s Bayview Park must be removed.

In 2016 the American Humanist Association and the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit contending the city’s action of erecting a cross on the publicly owned grounds violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. A federal district court judge agreed, as did the appellate court. Now Beckett continues its pro bono representation of the city by appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Madeline Ziegler, a staff attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, doesn’t believe Pensacola has a case and says, “This cross represents the government’s unconstitutional support of Christianity and must come down.”

But Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward says, “The cross is a valuable part of our history; tearing it down would needlessly signal hostility toward religion.”

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Ball State’s Students for Life Wins Case Over ‘Viewpoint Discrimination’

On Tuesday, as part of a settlement agreement in a lawsuit filed by Alliance Defending Freedom in June, Ball State University (BSU) in Indiana eliminated its policy on distribution of student activity fees that discriminated against “religious, political, or ideological” expression among student groups and put in place a policy with safeguards that would prevent future viewpoint discrimination.

This is good news for campus group Students for Life that in February had been denied a request to receive $300 from mandatory student activities fees because the university didn’t agree with the group’s pro-life views.

As part of the settlement, the school also agreed to pay Students for Life the $300 it had originally requested, as well as $12,000 in attorneys’ fees. The school’s new rules to guard freedom of speech will include the mandatory recording of all funding committee meetings, a written reason for denying funds to any student group, and the implementation of an appeals process.

Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins said, “Tolerance is a two-way street, and BSU Students for Life deserves equal access to funding and the continued opportunity to share their message of hope with pregnant and parenting students.”

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Christian Gym Logo Removed From Football Field for Being Too Religious

Two students were ordered to spray-paint over the logo of a faith-based gym in the end zone of a Louisiana high school football field last Friday because the logo included the word “Christ,” a cross, and reference to 1 Timothy 4:8.

Billy Weatherall, who owns Christ Fit Gym, paid the Benton High School football booster club $3,500 and signed a contract to have his logo on the field for the 2018-19 football season.

But counsel for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who filed a federal lawsuit in February against the school citing “widespread use of prayer” at various student events and activities, challenged the logo as an “improper endorsement of religion.” In light of the pending federal lawsuit, the Bossier Parish School Board’s attorney advised that the logo be removed.

Both the students and Weatherall have fought back despite the fact that the logo was removed last week. “You have to stand up for Christ no matter what [and we] just told the coaches we wouldn’t do it,” one of the students wrote on social media. “We ended up leaving the field and not helping them cover up the Scripture that was put on the field.” Weatherall added, “What would Jesus do? Jesus would not say this is okay. Jesus would not allow His name to be stamped out. I want to fight this fight.”

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Faith of Texas Cheerleaders Preserved Thanks to State Supreme Court

The more than five-year battle by a group of Texas cheerleaders at Kountze High School for free speech and religious liberty just ended in a great victory.

Last Friday the Texas Supreme Court refused to hear the Kountze Independent School District’s appeal of a case involving Bible verses written by the cheerleaders on run-through banners displayed at their school’s football games.

The state’s Ninth Court of Appeals had said in its opinion, “We find the cheerleaders’ speech on the pregame banners cannot be characterized as government speech.”

Hiram Sasser of First Liberty Institute, the organization representing the cheerleaders, was thrilled with this victory. “As the football season kicks off across Texas, it’s good to be reminded that these cheerleaders have a right to religious speech on their run-through banners—banners on which the cheerleaders painted messages they chose, with paint they paid for, on paper they purchased,” he said.

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No Christian Flag Will Fly at Boston’s City Hall

Harold Shurtleff, director of a Christian civic organization called Camp Constitution, is suing the city of Boston for refusing to fly the Christian flag over city hall in honor of the city’s Christian heritage.

This is ironic, considering the town was founded by Puritans and the state recognizes God in its constitution and flag. Plus, Boston “regularly extends to other civic and cultural organizations the freedom to raise their flags on the city hall flagpoles to commemorate whatever events are important to the organizations,” noted Liberty Counsel, which is representing the group.

If that is the case, then why is the Christian flag being censored?

Liberty Counsel Assistant Vice President of Legal Affairs Roger Gannam calls the tactic “the ultimate insult to the First Amendment and Boston’s rich heritage as a focal point of liberty and free speech at America’s founding.”

While city officials quibbled about the Christian flag, officials had no issue with flying the LGBT rainbow flag at city hall. In fact, it flew the flag during Pride month.

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