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On the church-state gridiron: Georgia HS football team challenged for 'Amazing Grace'

The latest battleground in the eternal fight over the separation of church and state could be the half-times of high school football games.

From WMAZ:

This isn't the first time Americans United reached out to the school. In May of this year, they told administrators to cut out the song, and to replace the prayer with a moment of silence.

On the August 21st game, many fans recited "The Lord's Prayer" during the moment of silence.

In AU's most recent letter, they stated that the band director, Michael Dukes, violated the constitution further and "reached out to local churches to bring their members out to the game."

This week, talk jock Erick Erickson weighed in with a column in the Macon Telegraph.

To tell a high school band that they should not be playing “Amazing Grace” is ridiculous. The organization demanding the high school stop playing “Amazing Grace” is Americans United, which used to be called Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. The organization has long taken the position that the First Amendment’s guarantee of “freedom of religion” should be interpreted as “freedom from religion.”

The organization wants no references made to religion, though Christian traditions have deep, deep underpinnings in our society that even the United States Supreme Court acknowledges to be lawful. But the organization bullies schools and local governments knowing they might not have the money to spend on a lawsuit.

These aren’t victimless crimes. When school administrators fail their responsibility to uphold church-state separation, students suffer. That should disturb any educator, but case after case demonstrates that many still place their personal religious convictions over the welfare of their students. 

It's not just a high school thing. You may recall a kerfuffle over the University of Georgia football team chaplain. A faith-based legal nonprofit called Alliance Defending Freedom has UGA's back, along with 14 other public universities whose chaplains were challenged by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. From a news release:

“Public universities should be commended, not attacked, for making chaplains available to student athletes who want them, especially since hectic team travel schedules often prevent students from participating in weekend worship services,” said ADF Legal Counsel Travis Barham. “Simply making these chaplains available does not somehow mean the schools are unconstitutionally endorsing any particular religion or even religion in general. The universities should simply ignore these unfounded demands from anti-religious groups, especially since the courts have upheld similar chaplain programs in a wide variety of other contexts for decades.”


Morris News Service's Walter Jones might have your Candid Quote of the Week from the Gold Dome. Jones' story about efforts to reduce the $5 per night hotel-motel tax includes one possible proposal of reducing the tax but still raising the same amount of money by applying it to vacation rentals and short-term rooms booked online.

Now what could possibly stand in the way of such an effort? Here's supporter and House Economic Development and Tourism Chairman Ron Stephens, R-Savannah:

“Quite honestly, it’s going to be an uphill battle because a lot of us legislators have vacation rentals.”


Say goodbye to the special blend for your tank known as "Georgia gas." From the Macon Telegraph:

Georgia was granted permission by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday to nix a rule requiring dozens of counties around Atlanta to sell a special and more expensive blend of gasoline during the summer months.

Federal approval for removal of Georgia’s Gasoline Marketing Rule, which has been in place since 2003, resulted in the 45-county nonattainment area being reduced to 13 counties surrounding metro Atlanta. In other words, 32 counties, including Monroe, Jones, Putnam, Upson and Pike, will no longer be required to sell the specially formulated fuel known as “Georgia gas.”

“Changes in the formula for federal gasoline have made it equivalent to Georgia gas,” Karen Hays, chief of Georgia EPD’s Air Protection Branch, said in a news release. “Therefore, there is no longer a compelling reason to require a unique gasoline for Georgia.”


U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., along with local House members, is touring Georgia's military installations this week. At Columbus' Fort Benning he included some new detail about troop cuts -- after the news last month about 4,350 Georgia troops being cut.

From the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer:

In a brigade with about 3,600 soldiers, Isakson said the cuts would impact 2,600 soldiers in the Columbus area. Some soldiers will be leaving Kelley Hill this month and departures will continue over the next nine months.

“I can’t give you the exact date,” Isakson said during a news conference in front of the 3rd Brigade headquarters building. “They are making the plans now.”


One tip for Yeezy's camp: He should bone up on foreign policy before going on with radio host Hugh Hewitt. Trump had a rough go last night, as reported by Politico:

“I’m looking for the next commander-in-chief, to know who Hassan Nasrallah is, and Zawahiri, and al-Julani, and al-Baghdadi. Do you know the players without a scorecard, yet, Donald Trump?” Hewitt asked the 2016 Republican candidate, referring to the respective leaders of Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State.

“No," Trump said.

"You know, I’ll tell you honestly, I think by the time we get to office, they’ll all be changed. They’ll be all gone,” he said. “I knew you were going to ask me things like this, and there’s no reason, because, No. 1, I’ll find, I will hopefully find Gen. Douglas MacArthur in the pack.”

Trump also mixed up Iraq's Kurds and Iran's Quds Forces. He accused Hewitt of asking "gotcha question(s)."

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.