Texas Plans to Defend Bible Verse Banners; Attorney General Intervenes in Suit Cheerleaders Filed against District Based on Freedom of Speech

Article excerpt

AUSTIN, TEXAS - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said Wednesday that he will defend high school cheerleaders who want to use Bible verses on banners at football games.

Abbott has filed court papers to intervene in a lawsuit that cheerleaders at Kountze High School filed against the school district complaining that a new policy violated their freedom of speech. Last month, district officials told the cheerleaders to stop using Bible verses at football games after the Freedom From Religion Foundation complained.

The atheist group argued that using banners with phrases such as, "I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me," violates the First Amendment prohibition on the government establishing a religion.

After the school told the cheerleaders they could no longer use Bible verses, they filed suit in Hardin County district court. State District Judge Steve Thomas put a hold on the new school policy while he considered the arguments, and the cheerleaders continued to make the banners. He is expected to rule today.

Abbott said that since the cheerleaders create the banners without school funding, they qualify as free speech and should not be banned.

"This is student-led expression, and that's perfectly constitutional," Abbott said. "We will not allow atheist groups from outside the state of Texas to come into the state to use menacing and misleading and intimidating tactics to try to bully schools to bow down to the altar of secular beliefs. …