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Judge rules Kountze cheerleaders can display religious banners
KOUNTZE - by Scott Lawrence
KFDM News has learned a state district judge has ruled in favor of Kountze cheerleaders displaying religious messages on run through banners at school sporting events.
Watch KFDM News for live reports and stay with kfdm.com for updates.
State District Judge Steven Thomas issued the ruling Wednesday afternoon.
Judge Thomas' ruling reads in part: The Kountze cheerleaders banners that included religious messages and were displayed during the 2012 football season were constitutionally permissable. Neither the Establishment Clause nor any other law prohibits cheerleaders from using religious-themed banners at school sporting events. Neither the Establishment Clause nor any other law requires Kountze ISD to prohibit inclusion of religious-themed banners at school sporting events.
Plaintiffs' attorney David Starnes spoke with KFDM News about the ruling.
"We're thrilled for the cheerleaders because their rights to display their messages were vindicated," Starnes told KFDM News. "This is a great victory for students all over the country who want to share their religious faith."
Watch KFDM News for live coverage and stay with kfdm.com for updates.
The parents of the cheerleaders sued the Kountze school district last fall after the district banned the signs at football games. The case was scheduled for trial this summer.
The attorney representing the cheerleaders told KFDM News on Tuesday that the district has agreed with the cheerleaders that the signs do not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. That clause prohibits Congress-meaning government-from establishing a state religion.
Attorney David Starnes says with both sides in agreement he doesn't see any reason to move forward with the lawsuit.
"I think a diverging point was brought together when the school district agreed the cheerleaders use of religious messages on the banners did not violate theEstablishment Clause, which was their original position in this case, Starnes told KFDM News. "They have recently changed that and come over and agreed with the cheerleaders that that does not violate the Establishment Clause.
Starnes says the Kountze school board is in the process of amending the district's policy. That policy specifically says the banners are not part of students' limited public forum and do represent government speech. That would mean the district could ban the banners.
Starnes says if a cheerleader is denied the right to a religious banner there could be a new lawsuit over the issue.
The school board could pass the changes as early as its next meeting May 3.