A lawsuit over whether high school cheerleaders can use Bible verses on their banners is now heading to the Supreme Court. In claiming their “Christian” message — plastered across their banners at public-school-sponsored football games — was just “free speech,” they prove they don’t actually know what freedom of speech is: Not to mention the separation of church and state.
WFAA reports last September the Kountze High School Cheerleaders were asked by the school district to remove Biblical passages from their banners after an anonymous complaint was filed with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The cheerleaders retaliated with a lawsuit against the school district, assisted by the Liberty Institute, a legal group well known for defending asinine “Christian persecution” claims.
Here is one of the banners the Kountze High School cheerleading squad displayed at a football game.
Since then the Kountze Independent School District has been in a legal battle in an attempt to protect the religious freedom of the rest of their students. As the Liberty Institute continues to file appeals, the case has now made it all the way to the Supreme Court.
Thankfully the district has had the support of the American Civil Liberties Union. In a statement shortly after the trouble first began, the ACLU explained why the banners weren’t individually-protected free speech but actually a breech of the Establishment Clause:
“As a district-sponsored and regulated group with special access to the football field, the squad’s members are representative of their public school and their banners are school-sponsored speech . . . To be clear, the Texas and U.S. Constitutions protect students’ right to exercise and express their faith in public schools in a variety of ways, including praying individually or in groups, discussing their beliefs with peers, forming religious clubs, and wearing religious jewelry or clothing required by their beliefs – all rights that the ACLU has unwaveringly defended.
Religious liberty, however, also includes the right of public-school students to decide for themselves which religious beliefs, if any, to adopt. It includes the right of minority-faith students and non-believers to attend public schools and take part in all of the benefits and offerings without being marginalized or pressured by the government to conform to the majority’s religious beliefs. Unfortunately, Kountze High School’s use of school-sponsored banners to disseminate Bible verses at football games does just that.”
As cheerleaders for a public school, these students are CLEARLY representing the school. That is essentially the main purpose of cheerleading. They have to respect the religious rights of the entire student body by abstaining from such displays, not use it for their own proselytization.
The Kountze School District was entirely in the right to tell their cheerleaders how they can represent the school, and even more so for respecting the religious freedoms of their students.
Once again Christian conservatives manage to confuse “religious freedom” with “Christian stranglehold”. You can be sure their goal isn’t really “freedom of religion” because if this were any other non-Christian religious message being displayed they would have the exact opposite stance. Real freedom works the same for everyone.
Here’s a report from CBS This Morning.
h/t and featured photo: WFAA.