By Tonya Andris
Inside The Pew

Hardin County District Court Judge Steven Thomas entered an order on

Kountze High School cheerleaders display a banner at a football game.

Photo courtesy of KHOU

May 8 that will allow a group of Kountze cheerleaders to display banners with Bible messages during school-sponsoring sporting events.

Thomas’ ruling states: “The Kountze cheerleaders’ banners that included religious messages and were displayed during the 2012 football season were constitutionally permissible. In addition, 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 ISD to prohibit the inclusion of religious-themed banners at school sporting events.”

Kountze, a town of 2,100 residents 95 miles northeast of Houston, made national headlines in September 2012 when an unknown person filed a complaint with the Freedom From Religion Foundation that the banners, produced by middle- and high-school students, were unconstitutional because they advocated a particular religion.

After learning of the complaint, Kountze superintendent Kevin Weldon banned the cheerleaders from displaying the Bible-inspired messages on the banners. Then, in September 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 Oct. 18, 2012, the court granted a temporary injunction allowing the student-made religious banners to continue until a final decision in the case is made.

“We’re excited, relieved, and glad it’s over with,” Coti Matthews, mother of one of the cheerleaders, told ABC News.com May 8.

“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.”

 

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