First Amendment

Temporary Injunction Allows Cheerleaders' Bible Verse Banners


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A Texas judge has issued a temporary injunction that permits cheerleaders in the small town of Kountze to display Bible verses on banners at football games.

Judge Steven Thomas of Hardin County ordered (PDF) the injunction on Thursday and set a June trial date, report the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. The school had banned the banners after receiving a complaint, citing fears that the messages constituted government endorsement of religion.

The school’s lawyer, Tom Brandt, had argued the Bible verses amounted to government speech because the cheerleaders had signed a “cheerleader constitution” regulating their speech and making them representatives of the school, the Los Angeles Times says. Brandt cited the Supreme Court case Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, which held that student-initiated prayers at football games violated the establishment clause.

Liberty Institute lawyer David Starnes argued the banners were private speech and the cheerleaders had a right to express their religious views. He cited an appellate ruling allowing prayer by a Texas valedictorian in her graduation speech.

Kountze Superintendent Kevin Weldon spoke to the Los Angeles Times after Thomas issued the injunction. “I respect the judge for what he did,” Weldon said. “He was in a pretty tough predicament, like myself.”

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott intervened in the lawsuit to support the cheerleaders, the Los Angeles Times says. He issued a statement praising the judge’s decision. “The Constitution does not give preference to those who have no religious beliefs over those who do,” he said.

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