The Lubbock Independent School District in Texas is home to Lowrey Field, where the four high schools in the area play their home football games. The 8,500-seat stadium also houses a digital billboard where companies like Whataburger, Fuddruckers, and United Supermarkets pay for ads to run during the big games.
So, naturally, the man behind JesusTattoo.org wanted to place an ad there, too:
(The website has nothing to do with tattoos, by the way. It’s just one guy’s failed idea of a “hip” way to convert teens to Christianity.)
Believe it or not — and to their credit — the district said no. It was religious, they said, and they didn’t want to violate the Constitution.
He may have a point. According to the lawsuit, the district allows ads from Lubbock Christian University on the billboard while allowing other religious groups to advertise at other sports venues in the district:
The District has also permitted, inter alia, Mission Rehab Services, Chick-fil-A, and Full Armor Ministries, a local church, to advertise at District basketball facilities, and numerous nonschool-related organizations, including Bethany Baptist Church, to place large banners, year-round on a Monterey High School fence facing one of the highest traffic intersections in Lubbock
However, Elie Mystal of Above the Law Redline says that doesn’t mean the Jesus billboard will get a free pass:
Two wrongs don’t make a right. Even if the Lubbock school district has been playing fast and loose with religious messaging in the public sphere, that doesn’t mean it is now required to put everybody’s religious programming on the Jumbotron.
And, without seeing the ads that have actually been accepted from the other religious organizations, it’s likely that Lubbock schools have been operating well within the limits of the Establishment Clause all along. The Constitution doesn’t prevent a religious organization from taking out an ad at a football game. It seeks to prevent preferential treatment of one religion over another.
There’s no doubt that the ad in question is fully pro-Jesus.
Still, that’s not stopping the misnamed Alliance Defending Freedom from fighting for their client:
“Christians should not be prevented from expressing their beliefs in public venues,” added Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. “We hope that Lubbock Independent School District will revise its policy so that everyone can exercise their constitutionally protected freedoms.”
Well, guess what? If the district ends up saying the JesusTattoo billboard is allowed, even if it’s just to avoid going to court, then I’ll be the first to pitch in for an atheist billboard to join in the mix.
So keep fighting the good fight, ADF.
(via Religion Clause — Thanks to Kyle for the link)