Judge rules for cheerleaders in Bible banner suit - KSWO, Lawton, OK- Wichita Falls, TX: News, Weather, Sports. ABC, 24/7, Telemundo -

Judge rules for cheerleaders in Bible banner suit

Posted: Updated:
Kountze High School cheerleaders and other children work on a large sign in Kountze, Texas. (AP Photo/The Beaumont Enterprise, Dave Ryan, File) Kountze High School cheerleaders and other children work on a large sign in Kountze, Texas. (AP Photo/The Beaumont Enterprise, Dave Ryan, File)

By CHRIS TOMLINSON, Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas - A judge stopped an East Texas school district on Thursday from barring cheerleaders from quoting biblical scripture on banners at high school football games, saying the policy appears to violate their free speech rights.

District Judge Steve Thomas granted an injunction requested by the Kountze High School cheerleaders allowing them to continue displaying religious-themed banners pending the outcome of a lawsuit set to go to trial next June 24, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said. Thomas previously granted a temporary restraining order allowing the practice to continue.

School officials barred the cheerleaders from displaying banners with religious messages such as, "If God is for us, who can be against us," after the Freedom From Religion Foundation complained. The advocacy group says the messages violate the First Amendment clause barring the government - or a publicly funded school district, in this case - from establishing or endorsing a religion.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott spoke out in support of the cheerleaders on Wednesday. Perry appointed Thomas to fill a vacancy on the 356th District Court, and he is running for election to continue in the post as a Republican.

Abbott also filed court papers to intervene in the lawsuit and sent state attorneys to support the cheerleaders' position that the district's ban violated their free speech rights. The Texas Education Code also states that schools must respect the rights of students to express their religious beliefs.

"It is the individual speech of the cheerleaders and not in fact the government speaking," David Starnes, the cheerleaders' attorney said, according to KDFM television. "It is not just one girl or one person in the group that comes up with the quote, but it's on a rotating basis that each girl gets to pick the quote. That is their individual voices that are being portrayed on the banner."

Thomas Brandt, the attorney representing the school district, said the superintendent had acted to comply within existing legal rulings.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which is dedicated to the separation of church and state, argued in the context of a football game it was unclear who was responsible for the messages, the school or the cheerleaders.

"The speech in question is government speech or, at a minimum, school-sponsored speech," the group said in court papers. "If the majority of the cheerleaders were atheists, would a court support their `right' to hold up a banner insulting Christianity or all believers? The district has every right to simply prohibit all run-through and on-field banners."

Perry said Texans should encourage the cheerleaders.

"Anyone who is expressing their faith should be celebrated, from my perspective, in this day and age of instant gratification, this me-first culture that we see all too often," Perry said Wednesday. "We're a nation built on the concept of free expression of ideas. We're also a culture built on the concept that the original law is God's law, outlined in the Ten Commandments."

 

  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • Cable One, Viacom continue programming dispute

    Cable One, Viacom continue programming dispute

    Tuesday, April 15 2014 11:38 PM EDT2014-04-16 03:38:19 GMT
    DUNCAN, Okla._ Cable One customers are still without 15 popular television channels after the cable provider failed to reach an agreement with Viacom by April 1. "We are not happy about this situation,"
    Cable One customers are still without 15 popular television channels after the cable provider failed to reach an agreement with Viacom by April 1.
  • Day two of Miles Bench competency trial

    Day two of Miles Bench competency trial

    Tuesday, April 15 2014 7:06 PM EDT2014-04-15 23:06:18 GMT
    DUNCAN, Okla._A psychologist who changed her opinion on whether an accused killer was competent to stand trial explained her decision to a Stephens County jury Tuesday afternoon. This was the second
    A psychologist who changed her opinion on whether an accused killer was competent to stand trial explained her decision to a Stephens County jury Tuesday afternoon.
  • Post office lines reduced with more e-filings

    Post office lines reduced with more e-filings

    Tuesday, April 15 2014 6:55 PM EDT2014-04-15 22:55:57 GMT
    LAWTON, Okla._It's finally that day in April most Americans dread...tax day. But the IRS says this year, many taxpayers have decided against waiting until the last minute to file their returns. At the
    It's finally that day in April most Americans dread...tax day. But the IRS says this year, many taxpayers have decided against waiting until the last minute to file their returns.
Powered by WorldNow
KSWO-TV, 1401 SE 60th Street
Lawton, OK 73501

Telephone: (580) 355-7000
Fax: (580) 357-3811
Email: news@kswo.com

All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Worldnow and KSWO. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.