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Judge protects Texas cheerleaders’ right to use Biblical verse on pre-game football signs

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

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Kountze cheerleaders paint a Biblical 'run through' sign — Associated Press

Kountze cheerleaders paint a Biblical 'run through' sign — Associated Press

In September, it took a legal injunction to ensure that a group of high school cheerleaders could continue to display religious quotes on motivational signs that their school’s football team would run through.

The story was borne out of the piety of a region, in this case a section of Texas that finds itself firmly in the state’s bible belt. The cheerleaders at Kountze (Texas) High held up signs emblazoned with Biblical verse for the hometown Tigers to run through. After their right to do so was challenged, the cheerleaders rapidly filed suit to gain a temporary injunction against the state.

That injunction was granted, and has since set the stage for a variety of Kountze activities that use cheerleader-made signs. Now, the cheerleaders can display their Biblical signs without concern, after a ruling by Texas District Judge Steven Thomas found that the cheerleaders should be able to use whatever text they like on pregame signs.

The case for the cheerleaders was argued by a Plano, Texas-based nonprofit law firm called the Liberty Institute, though the firm was hardly alone; popular local celebrities such as Texas governor Rick Perry and attorney general Greg Abbott have also been outspoken supporters of the cheerleaders’ case.

Still, as noted by the Online Sports Guys blog, the Kountze case is hardly the first to deal with freedom of religious expression related to a pregame routine at a prep sporting event. In fact, there have been two relatively similar scenarios in the state of Georgia in recent years alone, in the form of both Ridgeland (Ga.) High and Haralson County (Ga.) High's disputes with the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

While the ruling appears to have cleared the way for future use of Biblical verse in high school sports, some civil rights groups have already spoken out to insist that they will continue to fight against the use of any religious text in or connected with a scholastic event.

"High school football games are a quintessential school event and cheerleaders are a key part of that event," Martin B. Cominsky, Southwest Regional Director of the Anti Defamation League told Houston ABC affiliate KTRK. "This decision flies in the face of clear U.S. Supreme Court and other rulings. The religious banners blatantly convey a message that the school supports and promotes one religion over any other. Not only is that inappropriate, the court should have found it unconstitutional."

Those concerns no longer seem to have any effect on the Kountze cheerleaders, at least at the moment. Now they’ll get a chance to continue quoting scripture. Get ready for plenty more of “If God is for us, who can be against us?”, all coming to a Texas field near you.

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