KOUNTZE - by Scott Lawrence - A state district judge has ruled in favor of Kountze cheerleaders who write religious-oriented messages and biblical verses on run-through banners at football games.
The co-president of an organization that complained about the practice vows to watch closely as the case plays out in court.
Click here to read the letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation to Kountze ISD
Click here to read about the foundation
The cheerleaders won the first round Thursday.
At issue: the Kountze superintendent's order banning such signs from school sponsored events.
He says someone complained.
Superintendent Kevin Weldon says he was told by legal counsel the signs violate a U.S.Supreme Court decision banning school-mandated religious activity.
Beaumont attorney David Starnes and an attorney with the Liberty Institute filed a lawsuit Thursday against the district and the superintendent and asked for a temporary restraining order. They argued the cheerleaders have a Constitutional right to display the signs.
Judge Steve Thomas granted the order and that clears the way for cheerleaders to display the signs for at least the next 14 days.
The case will go back to court October 4 in Kountze. Judge Thomas scheduled another hearing for a temporary injunction.
The co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison, Wisconsin tells KFDM News someone in Kountze saw the banners in the stadium earlier in the football season and complained.
She says the purpose of the organization is to promote the principle of separation of church and state.
Annie Gaylor told us the group wrote a letter to the superintendent and told him to stop the banners.
In a telephone conversation Friday with KFDM News, Gaylor said "when cheerleaders wear the school name, are chosen by the school, are at a school function, in an official activity, the school is obligated to ensure there isn't a religious message."
She says her organization is feeling the wrath of some parents.
"Some parents are bullies," said Gaylor. "We've received horrible phone calls. This is what happens when government or public schools appear to endorse a religion. This is the danger of religion in public schools. This is one tiny case, but we get this all the time. It's quite a reflection on ignorance in our country."
The Kountze cheerleaders are receiving a lot of support in the community, but Vidor High School students who told us they belong to what they call a secular group, take issue with the religious banners.
"It's been so one-sided on this discussion," Dylan Kelly, a senior at Vidor High School, told KFDM News on Friday. "I feel people need to know that there are people who oppose this, and people who realize everyone should be equal under the law, and everyone should be represented when you have something in the public forum like this."
Another student said he was first inclined to support the cheerleaders but his thinking changed.
"My initial thought was that I do support it, but when you dig deeper into it, you realize that they are representing the school and that it's not really Constitutionally right for them to represent the school in that manner," said Darren Mattox, a Vidor High School junior.
"I just think they're misrepresenting certain minorities," said Dillon Nicholson, a Vidor High School senior. "Judaism, Atheism, the lack of a religion, Agnosticism, or Islam, their God or their lack of God wasn't on this banner. And I think if it were, then that would be equally offensive to the many Christians that are in this community."