AG offers to help defend Texas school's Bible banners
One of the banners featuring a religious message that the Kountze High School cheerleaders created. / Facebook/Support Kountze Kids Faith
AUSTIN, Texas Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has offered to help a Southeast Texas school district and its cheerleaders fight a challenge to putting Bible verses on high school football game banners.
Kountze (KOONTZ) Superintendent Kevin Weldon initially banned the signs after the Freedom From Religion Foundation complained. But a judge ordered that the banners continue to be allowed until a court hearing can be held next month.
In a letter to Weldon, Abbott said he was on solid legal ground by allowing the signs. He said his office was prepared to file a brief on the cheerleaders' behalf if the Freedom From Religion Foundation sued.
The conservative Liberty Institute already is defending the cheerleaders, arguing that banning religious speech on student-made signs is discriminatory.
Most people in Kountze viewed the banners as evidence of the students' admirable moral upbringing - Christianity and the Bible always had been fundamental to this town of 2,100.
But someone complained to a foundation that fights for the separation of church and state. After receiving a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the superintendent banned the banners, and the town became embroiled in a controversy that has touched other communities nationwide.
Weldon gently explains to every parent who calls that a 2000 U.S. Supreme Court precedent-setting decision requires religion to be kept out of public schools. Some parents support his decision. Others say they will back their children's First Amendment right to hang the banners.
"It is not a personal opinion of mine," Weldon told KVUE-TV. "My personal convictions are that I am a Christian as well. But I'm also a state employee and Kountze ISD representative. And I was advised that that such a practice would be in direct violation of United State Supreme Court decisions."
Weldon himself is torn, but he has to abide by the judge's injunction, and will let the attorneys decide whether to fight the institute. He added to KVUE-TV that while people in the stands and students are allowed to express their religious beliefs, no person officially representing the school as part of a team or school-sponsored event can.
Kountze is 85 miles northeast of Houston.
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