In 2012, a group of cheerleaders from Kountze High School in Texas was looking for ideas for banners that would inspire their football team when they came across the idea of using uplifting Bible verses. So they started putting bible verses on their banners before all of the football games. Most people at the games loved their banners. However, a short time later, the school’s superintendent received a complaint from the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation. The district ordered the cheerleaders to stop using Bible quotes. But these young women were not to be deterred. They took their case to the Texas Supreme Court to fight for their right to free speech.
In January 2016, the Texas Supreme Court voted unanimously in favor of the cheerleaders. But their battle wasn’t over. The ruling was appealed, and the cheerleaders found themselves back in court – this time, the 9th Court of Appeals. The group was worried they might lose this one, as the appeals court is known to be more liberal; but in September 2017 they were excited to learn that the court had again ruled in their favor, saying the cheerleaders’ right to display Bible verses was “private speech” and thus to be protected.
The victory was a huge one not only for this group of cheerleaders, but for students all over the state. “We are pleased that once again religious liberty is vindicated and that cheerleaders across the state of Texas have the right to have religious messages on banners at high school football games,” said Hiram Sasser, general counsel to First Liberty, which represented the cheerleaders.
“No school district should be able to censor, ban, or claim ownership of the private religious speech of its students.” Amazingly, this month, the school district filed yet another appeal to the Texas Supreme Court. First Liberty says they will “continue to represent the cheerleaders and protect their rights from interference by the school district.”
We think these cheerleaders should be commended for their determination to protect their rights to free speech, no matter the cost. By staying silent, we allow our freedoms to be stripped away one by one. These courageous young women are not about to let that happen!