Written by Don Byrd
The Texas Supreme Court has declined to take up a long-running case involving banners with religious messages being displayed by public high school cheerleaders at football games in Kountze County. That leaves in place an appeals court decision affirming the right of the students to create and hold on the field religious signs.
The school district argued that a policy (which was subsequently abandoned) barring the religious expressions is constitutional as a means of enforcing the Establishment Clause, because the display on the field creates the appearance of an official endorsement of religions. But the court ultimately agreed with the students that the banners are student-initiated expression protected by the First Amendment.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued the following statement, according to Beaumont’s KFDM:
“The Kountze cheerleaders case involved personal expressions of faith and an ill-advised school district change of policy that mislabeled their expressions as government speech,” Attorney General Paxton said. “Religious liberty is the foundation upon which our society has been built. The Texas Supreme Court’s decision ensures that the Kountze cheerleaders and other cheerleaders across the state will be able to display their expressions of faith on banners at football games.”
As I have written before regarding this case, which has been winding through courts since 2013, even if religious banners are deemed lawful, that doesn’t mean they are a good idea, or the best way to promote the spirit of religious liberty. As they start back up again around the country, it’s worth remembering that in many communities a public high school football game is a quintessentially civic event. All students and families should be welcome and feel like equal participants regardless of their faith or lack of faith.