Religion

Texas Supreme Court Sides With Religious Banner-Waving Cheerleaders

| by Sheena Vasani
Cheerleaders stand in front of a 'Bible banner' on the football fieldCheerleaders stand in front of a 'Bible banner' on the football field

The Texas Supreme Court on Jan. 29 sided with a group of high-school cheerleaders attempting to feature Bible verses on banners at school football games.

While the court did not grant the students the right to do so, it did send the decision back to a lower court, Reuters reports.

“I’m pleased the Texas Supreme Court has ensured that the Kountze cheerleaders will be able to continue defending their right to express their faith – the most fundamental of American freedoms,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement.

In 2012, Kountze Independent School District banned the religious banners after the Freedom From Religion Foundation threatened to sue, Raw Story reports.

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“[The banners] signal to students and members of the community who are non-Christian that they are outsiders,” FFRF lawyer Patrick Elliott said, according to Reuters.

The cheerleaders’ parents filed a lawsuit in response, arguing the ban was a violation of their children’s right to free speech. The cheerleaders acted as individuals, their parents said, by both coming up with the idea for the banners and buying the supplies to make them.

Charles Haynes, the director at the Newseum’s Religious Freedom Education Project, disagrees, The Texas Tribune reports.

"If the cheerleaders aren't representing the school, then who are they?” Haynes said. “It would be like saying that the football team doesn’t represent the school; they are just individual students, just coming on the field, and are free to do what they want to do.”

In 2013, the school district reversed its decision, allowing the cheerleaders to use "Bible banners" at school football games. 

The appeals court dismissed the case, saying there was no need to rule as school district already allowed for the banners.

The Texas Supreme Court, however, overruled that decision.

“The District no longer prohibits the cheerleaders from displaying religious signs or messages on banners at school-sponsored events,” Justice John Devine stated, according to Raw Story. "But that change hardly makes ‘absolutely clear’ that the District will not reverse itself after this litigation is concluded."

Sources: Reuters via Religion News Service, Raw StoryThe Texas Tribune / Photo Credit: The Texas Tribune via Raw Story

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