The Texas Supreme Court handed down a major victory late last week to a group of Christian cheerleaders, refusing to hear the school district’s appeal of a case involving the athletes writing Bible verses on their run-through banners.
Since the lawsuit was initially filed six years ago, numerous courts have sided with the cheerleaders at Kountze Independent School District (KISD), ruling the First Amendment protects the students’ right to display Christian messages at school events, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Then on Friday, the high court in Texas rejected a request by KISD officials to rethink the previous rulings, solidifying the student athletes’ religious freedom.
VICTORY: Cheerleaders win again! School districts everywhere should learn an important lesson from this: stop harassing cheerleaders and accept that they are free to have religious speech on their run-through banners. Learn more: https://t.co/p9Tk95YzDq #FirstInTheFight pic.twitter.com/N6s1uGpfLF
— First Liberty (@1stLiberty) September 3, 2018
This entire ordeal began in 2012, when the KISD caught the attention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, whose lawyers sent a letter of complaint to the district. As a result, school administrators banned the banners, which led the cheerleaders to file a lawsuit against the KISD.
The KISD, for its part, argued that allowing the faith-based banners amounted to a school- or government-sponsored endorsement of religion.
The case made it to the Texas Supreme Court in 2016, when judges remanded the case back to lower courts, which had ruled it was OK for the girls to promote Scripture during games.
— Leah Durain (@LeahDurain) January 29, 2016
The case didn’t necessarily rule the cheerleaders could display the Christian messages on the banners, but returned the case to an appeals court that previously determined there was no reason to rule on the case because the KISD changed its policy to allow the so-called “Bible banners,” according to the Religion News Service.
David Starnes, the attorney who represented the cheerleaders, told KFDM-TV on Friday he’s “very pleased for the cheerleaders, not only in Kountze, but throughout the State of Texas.”
“Finally,” he continued, “they can freely express their sincerely held religious beliefs while representing their school.”
An attorney with the First Liberty Institute, Hiram Sasser, who also served as a lawyer representing the group of cheerleaders, said the state Supreme Court’s ruling should serve as “an important lesson” for other school district’s trying to censor students.
“Stop harassing cheerleaders and accept that they are free to have religious speech on their run through banners,” Sasser said.