Sep 15, 2014 07:28 AM EDT
ASU to Remove Christian Cross from Football Team's Helmets after Complaint
The Arkansas State University has decided to remove the Christian cross decal from Football team's helmets as it allegedly violates the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The Red Wolves football team's helmets comprise of a white cross and initials of deceased ASU teammate Markel Owens (murdered during a home invasion in January) and equipment manager Barry Weyer (died in a car accident).
Athletics Director Terry Mohajir said that the decal is intended to honor the former player and equipment manager.
"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," Mohajir said, Huffington Post reports. "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."
Attorney Louis Nisenbaum, who filed the complaint with the ASU officials, said that it was a "clear violation of the Establishment Clause as a state endorsement of the Christian religion." McDaniel saw the crosses while watching the recent Arkansas State's game at Tennessee.
"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," said university's counsel Lucinda McDaniel. "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," Christian Post reports.
Weyer's parents said that the decal on the helmets was installed to honor and remember Markel and Barry, and not to offend any religious sentiments.
Mohajir said that he wanted to appeal the decision, but had to follow the school orders: of either completely removing or modifying the symbol. As a result of the controversy, Mohajir said that they will remove the top and bottom parts of the cross and transform the cross into a dash between the initials.
"That is great news," Rebecca Markert, an attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation said. "Putting religious imagery on public school property is unconstitutional," Washington Post reports.
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