March 2016 Church & State - March 2016

Texas Cheerleaders’ Religious Banners Case To Proceed

  AU admin

Cheerleaders at a Texas high school may pursue a lawsuit concerning the  display of religious banners at football games, the Texas Supreme Court has ruled.

The state supreme court’s unanimous decision means that the years-long legal battle over the cheerleaders’ signs will continue. The case began in 2012 when the Madison, Wisc.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation asked the Kountze Independent School District (ISD) to end the practice.

The banners, which were held by the cheerleaders while players crashed through them, frequently displayed Bible passages and other religious messages. District officials agreed to remove the banners, but parents of the cheerleaders filed suit in order to force them to reinstate the signs. Officials at the Kountze ISD eventually reversed their previous decision and allowed the cheerleaders to display the banners again. Parents, however, refused to drop the lawsuit, claiming that nothing prevented district from removing the banners at a later date. 

The state high court agreed, saying the case should be allowed to proceed because the district might “reasonably be expected” to reinstate the banner ban at some point in the future.

The court’s decision kicks the case back to the 9th District Court of Appeals. That court must now decide if the cheerleaders’ banners are private speech or government speech.

The case is Matthews v. Kountze Independent School District.

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