KOUNTZE, Texas (CN) - High school cheerleaders in Kountze, Texas, can display Bible verses on football game banners, a judge ruled, tossing a school district ban.
Hardin County District Judge Steven Thomas granted the plaintiffs summary judgment on Wednesday, finding the messages as "constitutionally permissible."
He had enjoined
the Kountze Independent School District from enforcing the ban in October, allowing the messages for the remainder of the school's 2012 football season.
"The evidence in this case confirms that religious messages expressed on run-through banners have not created, and will not create, an establishment of religion in the Kountze community," Thomas wrote. "Neither the Establishment Clause nor any other law prohibits the cheerleaders from using religious-themed banners at school sporting events. Neither the Establishment Clause nor any other law requires Kountze ISD to prohibit the inclusion of religious-themed banners at school sporting events."
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott applauded the ruling, having intervened in the case on the cheerleaders' behalf in October. He accused the school district of bowing to the complaints of the Wisconsin-based atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation.
"This is a victory for religious liberties and for high school cheerleaders who stood up to powerful forces that tried to silence their voices," Abbott said in a statement. "The Freedom From Religion Foundation was wrong in trying to bully Kountze ISD into prohibiting the cheerleaders from displaying banners with religious messages. Our Constitution has never demanded that students check their religious beliefs at the schoolhouse door."
The cheerleaders are "heroes who fought for principles," Abbott said.