Judge: Religious Banners At Texas High School Okay

A judge in Southeast Texas has ruled that cheerleaders in a tiny town about 85 miles northeast of Houston can display banners with bible verses at football games. The decision ends a court battle that started last year.

The ruling by a Hardin County judge means the cheerleaders at Kountze High School can continue to display the religion-themed banners going forward. Judge Steve Thomas late last year granted a temporary injunction that allowed the squad to continue using the banners at football games. Jeff Mateer is an attorney with the Plano-based Liberty Institute that helped the cheerleaders fight an attempted ban.

"Students and parents do not lose their First Amendment rights when they go through the schoolhouse doors. Same situation
here. They do not lose their First Amendment rights when they enter a football stadium. Students do have free speech rights.
They do have religious liberty rights and this decision sends a strong message supporting those rights."

 
Last year, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott wrote an opinion supporting the Koontz cheerleaders. Martin Cominsky
heads the Houston Anti-Defamation League and says religious banners still don't belong at high school football games.

"We believe that there's constitutional precedent that makes this illegal, but we also are an organization that's dedicated
to religious liberty and we have long believed that state-sponsored organized religious activities in public schools have no place there."

A lawsuit in the case had been scheduled for trial in June. Kountze is a small town of about 2,000 residents.