Georgia high school athletes wanting to exhibit their faith won a victory yesterday, as the House of Representatives voted in favor of State Bill 309, which says high schools cannot participate in athletic associations that prohibit religious expression on the clothing of athletes.
The bill is aimed at the powerful Georgia High School Association, which last fall disqualified a West Forsyth High School cross country runner who wore a headband adorned with the Bible passage “Isaiah 40:30-31.”
The vote is mostly a moral victory, since the GHSA doesn’t allow any forms of personal expression on clothing worn by athletes. Just as significant is the bill’s language allowing schools to playing against those outside of the GHSA.
High schools would also be kept from participating in an athletic association that prohibits member schools from playing against schools of other associations. Last month Lt. Governor Casey Cagle released a statement blasting the GHSA for not allowing smaller Christian schools to compete against GHSA member schools. One reason a GHSA representative gave for the issue was that member schools couldn’t take part in such contests with schools not affiliated with the National Federation of State High School Associations.
The bill now goes to Governor Nathan Deal for consideration.
On Wednesday a companion piece, House Bill 870, passed through the State Education and Youth Committee. Rep. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough), a member of First Baptist Church in Hampton, said the bill will fight against discrimination against athletes of faith should the ban on individual expression by the GHSA ever be lifted.