A judge has ruled that cheerleaders at a Southeast Texas high school can display banners emblazoned with Bible verses at football games – a decision that supporters are calling a victory for religious liberty.
State District Judge Steve Thomas ruled Wednesday the Kountze High School cheerleaders’ banners are constitutionally permissible. Thomas determined that no law “prohibits cheerleaders from using religious-themed banners at school sporting events.”
“The court’s order today that the cheerleaders’ run-through banners are constitutionally permissible vindicates our clients’ rights and brings this case to a successful end,” said Roger Byron, an attorney with the Liberty Institute. “This is a great victory, not only for these cheerleaders, but for religious liberty of student leaders across the country.”
High school and middle school cheerleaders in Kountze had wanted to paint the Bible verses on the run-through banners to share postive and uplifting messages to the players and fans.
But after the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a complaint, the school district banned the messages. Last October, Judge Thomas granted a temporary injunction that allowed the cheerleaders to continue displaying the religious-themed banners.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott called the ruling a victory for religious liberty and took the FFRF to task.
“This is a victory for religious liberties and for young kids with brave hearts and big prayers,” Abbott said in a statement. “It took a lot of courage, but the Kountze High School cheerleaders chose to stand up for themselves and their rights, and in the end, they prevailed.”
Abbott said the Constitution has never demanded that students check their religious beliefs at the schoolhouse door.
“The Freedom From Religion Foundation was wrong in trying to bully Kountze ISD into prohibiting the cheerleaders from displaying banners with religious messages,” Abbott said. “The students’ ability to express their religious views adds to the diversity of thought that has made this country so strong. I’m very proud of these young ladies – standing up for what you believe in isn’t always easy, but it’s always the right thing to do.”
Hiram Sasser, the director of litigation for the Liberty Institute thanks Abbott for intervening in the case.