September 20, 2018
Harper Smith is a 4-year-old little girl battling an illness for which she has been hospitalized. Members of the Lake City, Michigan community gathered in a football field in a heartfelt demonstration of support for Harper's family. Attendees called it a "family circle," and a pastor had offered prayer. Harper's father, Kyle Smith, is the head coach of the Lake City High School football team.
The football team livestreamed the gathering on its Facebook page. Their message: #harperstrong. It is the clarion call for what has become a community-wide movement to support a suffering child. A friend of the family said that even other football teams have marked their helmets with the message #harperstrong.
Under the looming threat of litigation, the school reluctantly took the video down after the Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists cried foul and claimed that school property "has to remain free from religion." Under this group's logic, it is essentially unconstitutional to share a video on a public school's Facebook page if it shows people gathering anywhere on or near government property.
We have seen this before. The threat of hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars in litigation is a common scare tactic used by groups who seek to eviscerate religion from the public square. Americans United for Separation of Church and State pulled the same stunt against a public school in Bossier County, Louisiana after the school contracted with a faith-based business to run an advertisement that displayed the business's logo, a cross, and its name, which included the word "Christ." Fortunately, that school fought back and ultimately voted to keep the advertisement on the football field.
The Constitution protects the people from the government establishment of religion. It does not protect anti-faith groups from viewing a gathering of community support and belief in a higher purpose. The remarkably uncivil civil rights group claims that the video "clearly" promotes religion. As noted above, the only message attached to the video is "#harperstrong." Attendees called it a "family circle." The only thing clear is that this school sought to support a family and their precious little girl in a time of need.
It is the latest faulty argument from a group that wants to prohibit any display of belief in the public square. Even if the group was successful in taking down the video, it cannot take away the outpouring of support from a community that is #harperstrong.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.