(AP) Judge rules for cheerleaders in Bible banner suit
By CHRIS TOMLINSON
A judge says an East Texas school district policy barring cheerleaders from 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 the cheerleaders.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
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.
Republican Gov. Rick Perry also has spoken out in favor of the cheerleaders.