October 19, 2012
Texas Cheerleaders Win Temporary Victory In Bible-Verse Banners Case
(Updated) State judge: No law "prohibits cheerleaders from using religious-themed banners at school sporting events."
Update (May 8, 2013): A Texas state judge has determined that religiously themed banners displayed by cheerleaders at Kountze High School in Texas are constitutionally permissible. According to the Associated Press, "In a copy of the ruling obtained by Beaumont station KFDM, [judge Steve] Thomas determined that no law 'prohibits cheerleaders from using religious-themed banners at school sporting events.'"
The lawsuit, which became a high-profile case last fall, was scheduled to go to trial later this summer, but this summary judgment ends the case.
When Kountze High School in Texas banned cheerleaders from using Bible verses on their banners, the ban sparked a national debate about students' freedom of religion and free speech rights. For now, though, cheerleaders will be free to wave their banners, according to a ruling by Hardin County District Judge Steve Thomas.
The cheerleaders decided to make banners featuring Bible verses, including Phil 4:13 and Romans 8:31, to display at football games earlier this season. However, a complaint from the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist group, led Kountze superintendent Kevin Weldon to ban the banners on Sept. 18.
Thomas previously had granted a temporary injunction, and this ruling extends the injunction to allows the students to display Bible verses on their banners at sporting events through the rest of the school year. The lawsuit against them is expected to go to trial on June 24, 2013, said Texas attorney general Greg Abbott.
Abbott and Texas Governor Rick Perry petitioned in favor of the cheerleaders earlier this week.
"We will not allow atheist groups from outside of the state of Texas to come into the state to use menacing and misleading intimidation tactics to try to bully schools to bow down at the altar of secular beliefs," Abbott said Wednesday.
Abbott also applauded the ruling in a press release Thursday.
However, according to The New York Times, Martin B. Cominsky, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s southwest office, Thomas's ruling was "misguided," because the banners appear to be a "school-sponsored religious message."
CT previously reported the original injunction against the ban on Sept. 21. In 2000, the magazine editorialized on a similar case in Texas as the Supreme Court debated whether student prayers over the loudspeaker before football games violate the constitutional ban on the establishment of religion. (The court decided that they do.)