Kountze Cheerleaders Get Victory in Bible Banner Case
Last football season, the Kountze varsity cheerleaders made banners that featured verses taken from the Bible. The controversy erupted as civil liberties groups contended that this was unconstitutional with regard to the separation of Church and State and the Kountze ISD told the cheerleaders they could no longer use such banners.
However, in October, 2012, a judge granted an injunction allowing the students to continue using religious themed banners until a final decision was reached....that decision came today.
The following is taken from a press release from Liberty Institute:
"Hardin County District Court Judge Steven Thomas entered an order granting the Kountze Cheerleaders a victory in the seven-month-long case over the permissibility of displaying run-through banners with Bible messages at Kountze ISD sporting events. The Court's order declares:
- "The Kountze cheerleaders' banners that included religious messages and were displayed during the 2012 football season were constitutionally permissible."
- "Neither the Establishment Clause nor any other law prohibits the cheerleaders from using religious-themed banners at school sporting events. Neither the Establishment Clause nor any other law requires Kountze I.S.D. to prohibit the inclusion of 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 Liberty Institute. "We are pleased that the judge ruled to protect the cheerleaders' display of banners with religious messages at sporting events. This is a great victory, not only for these cheerleaders, but for religious liberty of student leaders across the country."
In an effort to share positive and uplifting messages with players and fans, high school and middle school cheerleaders in Kountze, TX, decided to paint Bible verses on their student-made run-through banners at their school football games. After receiving a complaint from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, the Kountze ISD superintendent banned the messages. Then, in Sept. 2012, Beaumont attorney David Starnes and Liberty Institute filed a lawsuit, Coti Matthews on behalf of her minor child, Macy Matthews, et al., v. Kountze Independent School District, on behalf of Kountze ISD cheerleaders and their parents. On October 18, 2012, the court granted a temporary injunction allowing student-made religious banners to continue until a final decision in the case.
"We especially appreciate the efforts of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who intervened into the case in support of the cheerleaders," said Hiram Sasser, Liberty Institute's Director of Litigation. "The extra efforts of Deputy Solicitor General Adam Aston were instrumental in the successful resolution of this case."