Texas cheerleaders get Bible verse flags back, for now

A banner made by the Kountze High School cheerleaders which displays a Bible verse.
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HOUSTON Southeast Texas cheerleaders who were barred from using Bible verses on their signs will be allowed to feature the religious scriptures for the time being.

A Texas judge has decided to continue allowing, for now, Kountze High School's cheerleaders to use run-through banners with biblical verses at football games.

State District Judge Steve Thomas said at the end of a day of testimony Thursday that he needs more time to issue a final ruling. He extended a temporary order granted last month to allow the banners. A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 18.

The cheerleaders have used run-throughs at football games with scripture verses such as, "I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me."

A letter was sent from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison, Wis.-based nonprofit that challenges any religion in public schools, complaining that the banner violated religious freedom. An attorney advised the district to ban the run-throughs as possibly violating U.S. Supreme Court rulings barring prayer in schools. Kountze High School superintendent Kevin Weldon complied, even though he personally disagreed.

"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."

The ban angered many people, including Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott who offered to help the school. In a letter to Weldon, he said the superintendent had the right to legally allow the signs.

In addition, the Plano, Texas-based Liberty Institute sued, arguing the ban violates the cheerleaders' free-speech rights.

Kountze is 85 miles northeast of Houston.