Hundreds rally to support Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe cheerleaders

Hundreds rally to support Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe cheerleaders

September 30th, 2009 by Ben Benton in Local Regional News

At least 500 people gathered in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., tonight in support of Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High cheerleaders whose Bible-verse-bearing signs were banned last week.

State Rep. Jay Neal, R-LaFayette, called for everyone at the rally at the polo grounds on Barnhardt Circle to bring religious signs and post them in an area designated for them on Friday nights beginning this week.

The controversy "will be for the good, because your voices will not be silenced," he said.

The signs were banned after a Fort Oglethorpe resident lodged a verbal complaint about them with Catoosa County Schools Superintendent Denia Reese. Ms. Reese ordered the cheerleaders not to use their signs inside the school's stadium but provided a "designated area" outside where they would be welcome.

"The designated area needs to be filled with signs every Friday night," Rep. Neal said.

Don and Shirley Willingham, grandparents of a cheerleader, said they came to support the cheerleading group.

"They're trying to take God out of our schools," Mr. Willingham said.

School cheerleader coach Susan Bradley said Tuesday that the cheerleaders aren't bucking the superintendent's directions and have decided to use the Bible verse signs only in the designated area.

Ms. Bradley said the cheerleaders will make a new sign, with acceptable slogans, for the football team to burst through onto the field before the game this Friday.

Principal Jerry Ransom said the signs have existed since 2001, when similar ones were displayed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent outpouring of patriotic support.