There's a difference between "church" and "a high school football game," even in Texas. For instance, the rules about what can go up on the Jumbotron at a megachurch are different than what can be on the scoreboard at halftime.

But a Texas religious group doesn't think there's that much of a difference. They're suing the Lubbock Independent School District for refusing to run their ad on the scoreboard at a school football game.

The group: Jesus Tattoo has an ad campaign featuring (wait for it) a Jesus with a lot of tattoos. In their YouTube video, Jesus changes the tattoos of "sinners" into something positive, then takes the negative tattoos upon himself, and then raptures or something.

Thanks Jesus!

The group had billboards up in Lubbock, but then they tried to buy an ad featuring their tattooed Jesus at a high school football game. The public school district passed on the ad, saying that it would violate the Establishment Clause, which generally frowns upon state institutions like public schools from showing a religious preference.


Yes, the headline should be "Here's something too religious even for high school football in Lubbock." But Jesus Tattoo founder David Miller feels that he's been denied his free speech rights, and so he's suing the school district. Miller's lawyers, Alliance Defending Freedom, argue that religious speech is "fully protected" by the First Amendment so the school is not allowed to discriminate among particular religious viewpoints. They point out that the Lubbock school district does accept advertising during football games from other religious groups and churches.

I wonder if Tattooed Jesus has a mark representing "logical fallacies"? Two wrongs don't make a right. Even if the Lubbock school district has been playing fast and loose with religious messaging in the public sphere, that doesn't mean it is now required to put everybody's religious programming on the Jumbotron.

And, without seeing the ads that have actually been accepted from the other religious organizations, it's likely that Lubbock schools have been operating well within the limits of the Establishment Clause all along. The Constitution doesn't prevent a religious organization from taking out an ad at a football game. It seeks to prevent preferential treatment of one religion over another. Here's my take on whether prayer in the legislature even constitutes religious "preference" by the government.


Your church can totally use a public school football game to say, "hey, come to our bake sale," or "Did you know it was Sister Melinda's birthday," and probably even "Allah praises Kliff Kingsbury."

But when your "pro-church" message starts sounding like a "pro-religion" message, you're going to run into Establishment problems. I don't know exactly where that line is, and I certainly don't know where that line is in Texas, but you're probably crossing it right around the point Jesus starts saving people from bad tattoos they acquired on spring break.

Now if Jesus was merely raising his hands in a way that suggests "touchdown," it might be a closer case.

Legislative Prayer: Should We Really Care? [Above the Law]