BEAUMONT, Texas A judge has ruled that cheerleaders at a Southeast Texas high school can display banners emblazoned with Bible verses at football games.
In a summary judgment of a lawsuit filed last year by Kountze High School cheerleaders, State District Judge Steve Thomas ruled Wednesday the banners are constitutionally permissible. In a copy of the ruling obtained by CBS affiliate KFDM in Beaumont, Thomas determined: "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."
The ruling ends the case in Thomas' court. The lawsuit had been scheduled for trial June 24.
In October, Thomas granted an injunction requested by the cheerleaders allowing them to continue displaying religious-themed banners pending the lawsuit's outcome. Thomas at the time said the district's ban on the practice appeared to violate free speech rights.
An attorney for the cheerleaders told KFDM 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.