I’m a big fan of secularism and separation of church and state. But that doesn’t mean that everything done in the name of those causes is a good idea. Sometimes, it’s downright silly, and the recent kerfuffle over LSU’s strategically airbrushed photo of fans in a promotional email is a good example of pro-secularist silliness. Here’s the original photo:
And here’s what they sent out in their email to students and fans:
At first glance, they may not seem that different. But a closer look reveals that the young men in the picture had crosses painted on the upper left sides of their chests. These crosses were airbrushed out of the email version of the photo. It turns out that these guys are part of a Christian themed LSU Tigers fan club. Now, a Christian Tigers fan club is about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of. Why the fuck would the supposed Ruler of the Entire Universe give a fuck about football? And what the fuck does Jesus have to do with what sports team you root for? Did he die on the cross so that South Carolina would lose? Does god hate Steve Spurrier? And what about all the people on the other team praying that LSU would lose? Did god just say “Fuck ’em” and let USC’s quarterback get injured because he admires The Hat?
And the silliness doesn’t end there. One of the god-flogging Tiger fans explained why he felt the need to paint a cross on his chest:
“The cross painting is important to me because it represents who I am as a Christ follower, and it reminds me who I need to act like in Death Valley.”
What would Jesus do? Apparently he’d point at the camera and make a douche-face. And apparently this guy needs to paint meaningless symbols on his chest in order to remember that he should act like a decent human being. It’s kinda like how I paint the batman symbol on my forehead to remind myself not to eat babies. You know, normal human behavior.
But, whatever. Regardless of how inane it is, these guys have every right to display their childish beliefs on their chests all day long if that’s what they want. So why would the school airbrush it out? According to Yahoo! Sports, the university censored the crosses because
“We don’t want to imply we are making any religious or political statements, so we air-brushed it out,”
Well, that’s stupid. Nothing about the picture implies anything about the SCHOOL making any statements at all. It’s a picture of fans. The fans are making the statement, not the school. If the school accompanied the picture with a caption saying, “Geaux Tigers! Oh, and Jesus loves you, as we demonstrate with this photo of silly looking young people with a lack of perspective,” then, yeah, that would be a violation of the Establishment Clause. But as merely a photo of fans with no message of endorsement from the university, how are the crosses a problem?
What if a fan is wearing a cross necklace? Would they airbrush that out too? What if they were wearing a shirt from their local church? What about a yarmulke? A turban? If we follow the university’s reasoning here, then they can’t show fans wearing any kind of religious or political attire whatsoever without “endorsing” it. Fuck, if that’s the case, I’m gonna declare Ed Hardy and Affliction to be religions so I never have to see one of their t-shirts in a broadcast ever again. Call it DoucheBrushing.
Yes, LSU is a public university, and yes, that means they should never endorse any religion. But no, that doesn’t mean they have to censor images of their fans who happen to have donned some kind of religious accoutrements. And apparently, I also have to insist that it’s censorship, because…
The school, in a statement, indicated that it was not trying to censor any views, but rather to avoid the appearance of endorsing one.
Again, that’s stupid. It is in fact censorship, so if they weren’t trying to censor, they failed; and fans independently expressing their views does not imply university endorsement. The only way I could see it implying endorsement would be if the school were deliberately singling out overtly Christ-humping fans for their promotional material in an attempt to imply that real fans are overt Christ-humpers. But since they’re not doing that, I see no need to censor the photo.
This kind of petty bullshit in the name of secularism really annoys me. It doesn’t help the cause, and it just gives the theocrats ammo for their bullshit crusade against anyone who thinks that church and state should be separate entities. It’s easy to confirm this by looking at the comments on the Yahoo! article, which are full of right wingers blathering on and on about all the false stereotypes they have of secularists. Here’s one example:
If I have not offended you yet, I am sorry, I will get around to you as soon as I can
You’ll have difficulty offending me, Jim B., because I rarely feel offended or appalled by anything at all. It’s just my nature. Religion doesn’t offend me. I just think its stupid and intrusive and a pointless waste of resources. And the same goes for a lot of the shit I stand for. I don’t oppose racism or sexism or homophobia because they offend me (they rarely do), but because I think they’re stupid, destructive, backwards bullshit.
But whenever someone does something silly and unnecessary in the name of secularism, as LSU has done, it feeds this myth that someone would only oppose theocracy because they’re “offended” by Christianity.
But there’s also another problem, and a single phrase in the article exemplifies it:
…someone somewhere inside LSU decided not to mix football and religion.
Football and religion get mixed all the time! I’ve written about this before. Coaches at public universities force their religion on their players all the time. They have team prayers. They “share the Gospel” (which means take advantage of their position of authority to lecture their players about the Gospel). Public prayers are held at football games on the field. This kind of shit happens at almost every football game, and unlike the photo of fans, it is a real violation of the Establishment clause. But the schools do nothing about it.
There are plenty of violations of separation of church and state going on in college football. But it’s not the fans doing it. Primarily, it’s the coaches. If LSU really didn’t want to mix religion and football, they’d be telling Les Miles to respect his non-Christian players and not have team prayers, not censoring silly images of idiots in body paint. But really, all they care about is not getting in trouble. So they ignore actual Establishment Clause violations and censor non-violations. And in doing so, they throw chum to the right wing feeding frenzy looking for anything they can hold up to show how oppressive it is to be in the dominant majority.
LSU, you are not helping.