Atheist Group Protests Middle School's Crusader Mascot

By Mark Judge | March 18, 2016 | 1:20pm EDT
The Ken Caryl Middle School Crusader mascot (screen capture)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is protesting the mascot of the Ken Caryl Middle School in Littleton, CO. The mascot is a Christian crusader.

In a March 2 letter sent to Dan McMinimee, the superintendent of Jeffco county public schools, FFR attorney Andrew Seidel argued that the mascot is an inappropriate symbol:

It is our understanding that the Ken Caryl Middle School mascot is "The Crusaders." KCMS depicts the mascot as a cloaked knight holding a shield and sword. There are red Latin crosses on both the knight's tunic and his shield. Please see the enclosed screenshot. A white mantle with a red cross is the unmistakable attire of a member of the Knights Templar. The Knights Templar, originally known as Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ sand the Temple of Solomon, were among the most feared fighting units of the Crusades.

While the Crusaders, and specifically the Knights Templar, were certainly a terrifying group of Christian warriors capable of striking fear in their enemies, they are not an appropriate mascot for a public middle school. The Crusaders were Christian warriors fighting against "infidels" and "heathens" to reclaim Christian Holy Land for their Christian god. The Latin crosses drive the religious message home. The district should change this religious mascot to something more inclusive and appropriate for a public school

The religious nature of the mascot, its historical context, and the two Latin crosses, make the conclusion unavoidable—the mascot is religious and the school is endorsing religion over nonreligion. The government (including public schools) is prohibited from endorsing religion over nonreligion just as it is prohibited from endorsing one religious sect over another. Standing alone, the crusader's crosses are an unconstitutional endorsement of religion, and when paired with the religious mascot and the historical context, the endorsement is exacerbated.

Superintendent McMinimee responded to the group in an email: "The district recognizes that a school mascot/logo should depict positive images embracing history, community spirit, and traditions but should not be derogatory or offensive to persons of any race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, age or to persons with a disability. The district is in the process of forming a diverse group of parents, students, staff and community members to consider your feedback and develop and/or review submissions for a new mascot/logo for Ken Caryl Middle School. We anticipate the process to be finished by the start of next school year." 

"There's no guarantee that there will be a change, but there is a guarantee that there will be a conversation," Diana Wilson, the chief of communications for Jeffco schools, told CNS News.

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