Texas cheerleaders can keep religious banners, judge rules

Texas high school cheerleaders have won the right to keep displaying religious banners at sporting events until their case goes to trial in June.

The case first came up in September when the Freedom From Religion Foundation complained, after a tip from a local resident, about the religious-themed banners used by Kountze High School cheerleaders for players to burst through at the start of football games.

A temporary restraining order allowed students to continue to putting religious messages on run-through banners. A Hardin County judge extended that order Thursday, telling the school district to cease censoring the speech on the girls’ banners. In granting the preliminary injunction, the judge said the ban on banners was infringing on the cheerleaders’ constitutional and statutory rights by prohibiting religious expression.

“I think we were right on the facts and the law,” said David Starnes, the attorney for the cheerleaders.

Before the hearing Thursday, the cheerleaders received support from both Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the state’s Attorney General, Greg Abbott. The case was strengthened by their support, Starnes said.

“We thought that was a strong support for the proposition that the cheerleaders behavior was protected by the Constitution and that everything they had done up until this point was in fact constitutional,” he said.