Austin Kellerman of KARK has posted here a letter from Arkansas State President Charles Welch to a conservative Christian legal organization defending removal of cross decals from ASU football helmets.
The decals were removed on advice of university counsel after questions were raised. The Liberty Institute, which uses the courts to push religion into public life, claimed ASU had violated private religious rights.
Welch said the Institute had misstated the facts. He said the crosses were not student speech but government speech because the head coach designed the memorial to a former player and manager. He added they were intended to be purchased with public funds and were affixed, not by individual players, but by team managers.
Welch said it was his understanding that the Institute had discussed the issue with Lucinda McDaniel, the ASU counsel, and this explanation would resolve the matter. The Institute had issued a “demand letter” about restoring the crosses.
UPDATE: What the letter didn’t say, according to a news release from the Liberty Institute, is that players now will be allowed to restore the cross decals if they choose.
“This is a great victory for the players of Arkansas State University!
“According to the letter we received from the University and communications from the Arkansas Attorney General Office, the players will be allowed to place the original cross sticker design on their helmets in the original location if they so choose.
“The University officials and the Arkansas Attorney General did the right thing restoring the religious liberty and free speech rights of the players to have the original cross sticker design if they so choose and we commend them for doing so.
Not that any is likely to do so in the climate that prevails in Arkansas, but can players now place symbols of other religions on their helmets? And never mind religion, if 1st Amendment protection of helmets is covered here, can a player put a pro-gun, anti-abortion, pro-marriage equality, pro-tax or whatever emblem on his helmet? And, if not, why not?
The original mistake, of course, remains the decision to brand all ASU helmets with crosses.