November 2017 Church & State - November 2017

Texas Cheerleaders Get Win In State Court

  AU admin

A Texas appeals court has sided with a group of cheer­leaders who sued to display Bible verses on banners at their public high school’s football games.

In the Sept. 28 ruling in favor of Kountze High School cheerleaders, the 9th Court of Appeals deemed the Bible verses a form of “private speech.”

Football players would crash through the large signs, which included messages like “But thanks be to God, which gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ,” “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me” and “If God be for us who can be against us?”

Cheerleaders stopped using the religious-themed ban­ners after the Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote to the school on behalf of an anonymous resident in 2012. The cheerleaders, backed by a Religious Right legal group, sued over the matter.

In 2013, Americans United joined allies in signing onto a friend-of-the-court-brief in Matthews v. Kountze Indepen­dent School District. The brief argued that since cheer­leading is a school-sponsored activity, public school of­ficials should ensure that no students are coerced to take part in any religious exercise.

“Students have the right to take part in school activities without being pressured to participate in religious exercises,” Gregory M. Lipper, then-AU senior litigation counsel, said in a Sept. 6, 2013, statement. “And the school has an obligation to protect the religious freedom of all of its students – not just those in the majority.”

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