Texas Cheerleaders Continue Court Fight Over Bible Banners

Atheist groups say a Texas high school cheer team violated the separation of church and state by using banners inscribed with Bible scripture at its games.
KOUNTZE, TX (CBS NEWS) -- Atheist groups say a Texas high school cheer team violated the separation of church and state by using banners inscribed with Bible scripture at its games.

But the cheerleaders aren't giving up without a fight, asking the state Supreme Court to weigh in on a controversial two-year-long battle, CBS News' Adriana Diaz reports.

The team began printing scripture onto its game banners in 2012, but the school received a complaint, leading the Freedom from Religion Foundation to write a letter to the Kountze school district.

"It's a religious proselytizing message, and it's a school-sponsored message. It violates the Establishment Clause," said Elizabeth Cavel, a lawyer with the foundation.

The school responded with a ban. Then, members of the 2012 quad filed a lawsuit against the district, saying their right to free speech was being violated.

They won a temporary injunction in 2012, and a 2013 ruling said they could carry the banners but never clarified if the students' rights to free speech were being violated.

While the students can carry the banners, school officials have the right to censor them.

On Wednesday, current and former members of the squad filed a petition with the Texas state Supreme Court, asking that it recognize the girls' speech as private, making any ban a violation of the First Amendment.

If the courts rule in their favor, it would make it difficult for groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation to sue in the future.

The squad insists this is about free speech, not freedom of religion.
"If it was a group that was wanting to post not scriptures, but maybe phrases from a different religion they should also be allowed to have their speech," said team cheerleader Ashton Lawrence.

The school district did not provide a comment.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation said it has no plans to retreat.

"Nothing has changed," Cavel said. "These banners continue to be school-sponsored speech, and they continue to violate the Establishment Clause, so depending on the outcome of this litigation, we'd certainly be prepared to sue."

But for now, come football season, the Kountze cheerleaders plan to cheer on with enthusiasm and scripture.

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