Today cheerleaders at Kountze High School won a temporary state court injunction which will allow them to publicly express their religious beliefs for the remainder of the school year. The injunction bars the Kountze Independent School District from stopping the cheerleaders from holding up paper banners displaying Bible verses, which football team players run through before taking the field to play their games.
The cheerleaders and football players as well as a majority of people in the town support the inspirational banners, which originated with one of the cheerleaders, but after one atheist complained, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation threatened to sue to force the cheerleaders to stop using the banners. The Kountze ISD capitulated and stopped use of the banners. The students, represented by the Liberty Institute and the State of Texas, sued and won today’s injunction.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott held a conference call hailing today’s injunction, and saluting the young Texans for taking a stand. “Cheerleaders have become community leaders” the attorney general said. ” It’s nice to see some teenagers who stand up with the kind of behavior that we want to see. These students should be applauded for what they’ve done instead of criticized or challenged by their school or outside groups.”
AG Abbott continued, saying that the Freedom From Religion Foundation is “wrong when they try to deny these students their right to express their religious beliefs.” Abbott said that the school district was trying silence these students and avoid a lawsuit. “We are not going to allow these outside groups to come into Texas and wage a war against students’ rights to religious expression,” Abbott said.
Abbott said that the state court’s injunction pushes the case to June, but the Freedom From Religion Foundation may take the case out to federal court. Abbott said that the Kountze ISD will probably face a lawsuit from the FFR Foundation.
Abbott noted that the Foundation is citing a previous case, the Santa Fe case, to make its case but that that case is not on point. Abbott said that Texas has successfully fought several cases involving students’ right to religious expression, and that the Supreme Court has approved a state law requiring students to recite the state and national pledges of allegiance before school days begin. Both pledges include the phrase “under God.”
Abbott said Texas would continue to stand with the students as they fight for their freedom of speech and free religious expression. “The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion,” Abbott said, “It does not guarantee freedom from religion.”