Cheerleaders at a Texas high school are fighting for the right to display Bible banners during school football games after their Scriptural signs came under fire from a national atheist organization.
Approximately fifteen cheerleaders from Kountze High School have filed suit against their Houston-area school district, arguing that the district’s decision to stop the use of the banners violated their constitutional right to freedom of speech and religion. District officials say that they were simply following the directives of their attorneys, who advised that the Bible banners amounted to government endorsement of religion.
The decision came after the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation contacted the school district following a single complaint. The organization asserted that Kountze High School had to put a stop to the banners as they allegedly were an infringement of the United States Constitution. In turn, Superintendent Kevin Weldon, a professing Christian, advised the school and the cheerleaders that while he supported their efforts, the Scripture-laden displays would no longer be permitted.
“We just wanted to encourage the boys and the fans in a way that gave honor to God. It wasn’t supposed to be a big deal,” said 17-year-old Rebekah Richardson, who advised that the banners were the idea of the cheerleaders and not school officials.
However, attorneys for the school district contend that the girls had all signed a “Cheerleader Constitution,” which informed them that their actions represent Kountze High School as a whole.
“This is government speech. It’s on public property. The cheerleaders represent the school,” stated attorney Tom Brandt.
With the assistance of the Liberty Institute of Plano, Texas, the cheerleading squad obtained a temporary restraining order against the prohibition, and yesterday both sides met in court. After hours of testimony — sometimes tearful — the squad and the district were unable to reach an agreement. Judge Steven Thomas advised that he needed more time and information to consider the arguments before making a decision on the matter. He extended the temporary restraining order an additional 14 days.
“Even the Supreme Court has recognized you cannot take away religious expression in schools. You can do it in Russia and China, but you cannot do it in the United States,” commented Liberty Institute attorney David Starnes.
The cheerleaders state that they plan to display a Scripture from Hebrews at tonight’s home game.