Sunday, May 12, 2013
Texas judge rules that showing religious banners during school sporting events does not violate the Establishment Clause
For every game last season at Kountze High School in Texas, cheerleaders made spirit banners with bible verses on them for football players to run through to the field. The cheerleaders were temporarily stopped from using the bible-verse banners, when Freedom from Religion, a group advocating church-state separatism, complained about the banners' religious content. Kountze Independent School District (KISD) Superintendent Kevin Weldon responded by banning displays of religious messages at school sporting events. On May 8, a Hardin County, Texas judge ruled that the cheerleaders' religious-themed banners did not violate the First Amendment. The Establishment Clause does not prohibit displaying banners with religious content at public school sporting events, Judge Steven Thomas wrote, or require that the KISD ban such banners. The harder question not answered in the opinion is whether the Kountze Independent School District can ban such messages. See KISD's press release on Matthews v. Kountze Independent School District.