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Georgia House Debating Religious Expression on High School Uniforms

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The Georgia House has delayed voting on a bill that would prevent any high school that receives tax payer money from joining up with athletic associations that disallow students from expressing religious messages on their uniforms.

The bill was set to be voted on yesterday.

The bill, House Bill 870, was generated in response to the disqualification of a high school runner because he wore a head band with a Bible verse written across it.

The incident occurred on Nov. 7th 2015, at the Georgia 5-A cross country state championship.

Third place winner John Green was stripped of his victory just moments after crossing the finish line.

The West Forsyth High School runner had written the words of Isaiah 40:30-31.

“Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

The Georgia High School Association (GHSA) said its national rules require student athletes to be in uniform with no other adornments.  Opponents say the association is a private organization following its own rules.

The West Forsyth High School runner “was just expressing his belief in his Creator,” said Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson, the lead co-sponsor of companion legislation, Senate Bill 309. “I found that a little bit troubling.”

Since the GHSA is private, the state legislature can’t require it to do anything. That’s why the bills are worded to prevent public schools from joining it.

The GHSA, as you might imagine, is against these bills.

Gary Phillips, the executive director of the Association [said the] language would compel his organization to allow religious expression on uniforms … . That would place his group at odds with the National Federation of State High School Associations’ prohibition against individual expression — “illegal adornments” — on team uniforms.

“It would quickly become out of control,” said Phillips, who testified against the House bill … . “What if a kid wants to wear something on his arm band that says ‘I love ISIS?’ Under this rule, we would have no way to control that.”

“I was very surprised how that happened,” West Forsyth runner John Green said of the controversy his head band caused.  “But this is kind of a cool story. One of our family friends told us after it first happened, like 15 minutes after, that, alright, it sounds bad now, but this is a good thing, God’s going to be glorified through this.

What do you think?  Should high school athletes be allowed to use their uniforms to express their religious beliefs?

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