Judge rules for cheerleaders in Bible banner suit
by Chris Tomlinson, Associated Press
October 18, 2012 02:40 PM | 2032 views | 4 4 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In this Sept. 19, 2012 file photo, Kountze High School cheerleaders and other children work on a large sign in Kountze, Texas. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced Wednesday that he is intervening in a lawsuit that cheerleaders filed against the school district. The district told the cheerleaders to stop using Bible verses at football games after the Freedom From Religion Foundation complained. (AP Photo/The Beaumont Enterprise, Dave Ryan, File)
In this Sept. 19, 2012 file photo, Kountze High School cheerleaders and other children work on a large sign in Kountze, Texas. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced Wednesday that he is intervening in a lawsuit that cheerleaders filed against the school district. The district told the cheerleaders to stop using Bible verses at football games after the Freedom From Religion Foundation complained. (AP Photo/The Beaumont Enterprise, Dave Ryan, File)
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UPDATE: AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A judge says an East Texas school district policy barring cheerleadersfrom quoting biblical scripture on banners at high school football games appears to violate their free speech rights.

KFDM television in Beaumont reports that District Judge Steve Thomas issued an injunction allowing the Kountze (KOONTZ) High School cheerleaders to continue displaying such banners pending the outcome of a lawsuit about the matter. He previously granted a temporary restraining order allowing the practice to continue.

The school district ordered the cheerleaders to stop quoting Bible verses after receiving a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The group says it received a complaint from an atheist attending a game who felt the school was promoting Christianity.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott have backed thecheerleaders.

 

Previous story:

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas judge is expected to rule Thursday whether a group of cheerleaders should be allowed to continue quoting biblical scripture on banners at high school football games.

District officials barred the Kountze High School 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 violated the First Amendment clause barring the government — or a publicly funded school district, in this case — from establishing or endorsing a religion.

The Kountze High School cheerleaders sued, arguing that the ban violates their free speech rights, and state District Judge Steve Thomas issued an injunction allowing them to display the banners until he could issue a ruling, which he was expected to do at a hearing later Thursday.

State Attorney General Greg Abbott filed court papers to intervene in the lawsuit, backing 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.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which is dedicated to the separation of church and state, also intervened saying 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."

Republican Gov. Rick Perry also has spoken out in favor of 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."



Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

Comments
(4)
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Too funny
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October 19, 2012
Absurd ruling. What I wouldn't give for a Muslim cheerleader at Kountze High who wanted to quote the Qur'an on a banner...
Watcher...
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October 18, 2012
This Texas story is worth watching.

This again brings up the issue that Voters need to know as much as possible about Judges before elections.



Currently Voter knowledge of Judges during election periods is very limited.
Election Monitor
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October 19, 2012
@ Watcher..., you are right. Notice also that many judges run unopposed. I am pretty certain that this is by design. The US has a VERY corrupt judicial system.
Grammaj
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October 19, 2012
I'm with the judge on this one. Preventing the cheerleaders from displaying their banners is a violation of their freedom of speech. They may be teenagers, but they still have rights, just like any other citizen.

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