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Cheerleaders win temporary injunction in high-profile free speech case
October 18th, 2012
04:14 PM ET

Cheerleaders win temporary injunction in high-profile free speech case

By Jason Morris, CNN

Dallas (CNN)– Cheerleaders from a small eastern Texas town have won the first battle in their crusade to display Christian religious messages on banners at their high school's football games.

State District Judge Steve Thomas of Hardin County implemented a temporary injunction Thursday in favor of the Kountze High School cheerleaders, and by setting a trial date of June 24, 2013, Thomas effectively allows the cheerleaders to keep displaying Bible-quoting signs at Kountze athletic events through the end of this current school year.

Macy Matthews, a 15-year-old Kountze sophomore, was eating lunch at cheerleading camp last July when her friend Megan became inspired by images she saw on social media.

"She saw a picture on Pinterest of a team that had made a run-through sign with a scripture on it, and as we were sitting down eating, she showed us and asked if we would be interested in doing that for the football season. So, we all talked about it," Matthews remembered. "We all loved the idea and thought it was really cool and encouraging."

Macy's mother, Coti Matthews, said the girls were excited to use Biblical phrases they considered motivational and uplifting for both the Kountz Lions and their opponents.

"It's their Christian belief, and they liked the idea and thought it was very positive, instead of doing traditional banners that say things like, 'Cage the Eagles,' or 'Bash the Tigers,' she said.

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Instead, before the first three home games this season, the football players bolted onto the field through banners bearing New Testament verses such as "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13; "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:14; and "If God is for us, who can be against us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31.

Phrases such as those have embroiled the cheerleaders from the small east Texas town of Kountze in a legal controversy: Are the banners, when used at a public school event, a legitimate individual expression of free speech, or do they violate the concept of separation of church and state?

The cheerleaders recently found out via an intercom announcement during the last period of school that they were no longer allowed to use Bible verses on their run-through banners. Macy Matthews said the decision came abruptly, with no explanation. "I was shocked, but I was also very hurt that we couldn't do it anymore, and I didn't understand how we were violating any rights," Matthews told CNN.

Thomas agreed enough to impose the injunction in Matthews v. Kountze Independent School District, ruling that, among other things, the plaintiffs would "suffer a probably imminent and irreparable injury in the interim" without the injunction.

Texas' Attorney General Greg Abbott praised the judge's ruling.

"Today's decision is an important victory for the cheerleaders' freedom of religion. The Constitution has never demanded that students check their religious beliefs at the schoolhouse door. Students' ability to express their religious views adds to the diversity of thought that has made this country so strong," Abbott said. "Texas law supports students' right to freely express their religious beliefs without discrimination. We will not allow groups or individuals to wage a war on religion by trying to intimidate students into embracing a secular mindset."

How this case went to court

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national nonprofit organization based in Madison, Wisconsin, that advocates the separation of church and state, ignited the spark that brought the story into the national spotlight. The organization said it received a complaint about the religious nature of the cheerleaders' signs from somebody in the community, but citing privacy concerns, wouldn't reveal any additional details. The foundation then sent a letter to the Kountze Independent School District, claiming that the religious nature of the cheerleaders' signs was illegal.

Based on a precedent set in a 2000 Supreme Court case, Santa Fe Independent School District v. Jane Doe, the Kountze Independent School District's attorneys advised Superintendent Kevin Weldon to immediately ban the religious banners. In that case emanating from southeast Texas, the Supreme Court ruled that it would not allow the broadcast of student-initiated and student-led prayer over the public address system before high school football games.

After the Kountze Independent School District's decision, the cheerleaders and their families filed suit on September 20. Judge Thomas issued a temporary two-week restraining order later that day, allowing the cheerleaders to continue using their "spirit run-through banners," and extended that order another two weeks on October 4.

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Thomas Brandt, the lawyer who represents the Kountze ISD and Superintendent Weldon, says this situation is very similar to Santa Fe v. Jane Doe, and in good faith, they asked the court for clarity and interpretation of the law so they can do the right thing.

"The school district is trying to walk a very thin line here, and to obey the law. That's the primary motive, the primary focus of the school district," he said. "On the one hand, we're trying not be endorsing any particular religion. On the other hand, we're not trying to be hostile to religion. We're trying to walk that very thin line of this elusive neutrality that we are required to achieve."

Texas intervention

On Wednesday, the state of Texas intervened, filing a petition with the Texas District Court of Hardin County to support the Kountze cheerleaders on the basis of defending the constitutionality of Texas statues.

"We will not allow atheist groups from outside the state of Texas to come into the state to use menacing and misleading and intimidating tactics to try to bully schools to bow down to the altar of secular beliefs," Abbott said Wednesday.

In a statement, the Attorney General's office explained that the Texas Religious Viewpoints Anti–Discrimination Act requires school districts to treat a student's voluntary expression of religious views in the same manner that the district treats a student's expression of any other point of view.

"Those banners, which the cheerleaders independently produce on their own time with privately funded supplies, are perfectly constitutional. The State of Texas intervened in this case to defend the cheerleaders' right to exercise their personal religious beliefs - and to defend the constitutionality of a state law that protects religious liberties for all Texans," the statement read.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry even Skyped with the cheerleaders last week to show his support.

"As government leaders, we owe it to people of all religions to protect expressions of faith, to ensure everyone has a right to voice their opinions and worship as they see fit," Gov. Perry said.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation said it was "shocked" and "flabbergasted" at the intervention by Attorney General Abbott and Gov. Perry, calling those actions "highly unprofessional." The foundation's lawyer, Randall Kallinen, accused the politicians of pandering to their Republican constituents for votes.

"It's 100% politics. In their party, that is a fact that it's in their platform to be more favorable to the religious right," Kallinen said.

He added that he thinks today's ruling was "purely a political decision," and that if the case was tried in federal court, there would be a very different outcome.

"I doubt the case will even go to trial," Kallinen told CNN. "The people being sued and the judge have to be re-elected, so I don't see how we can get very far."

Interpreting the First Amendment

Kallinen argued that the First Amendment's Establishment Clause prohibits the government from endorsing a particular religion.

"People have freedom of speech. So, individuals have freedom of speech, but also there is the right that the government shall establish no religion. So, the question becomes, 'Is what the cheerleaders are doing private speech,or is it school-sponsored speech?'" Kallinen said. "What the school district is saying is, 'You are in the uniforms that have the name on it. You are in the property of the school. It's a school football game, and you are putting these religious banners onto school property. Therefore, it is school-sponsored speech.' And when it is school-sponsored speech, then it is subject to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and that is that the government should not promote, endorse, or advance a particular religion."

Mike Johnson, who is representing many of the cheerleaders' families as senior counsel for the Liberty Institute - a nonprofit group which says it is "committed to defending and restoring religious liberty across America" - disagrees that the banners are school-sponsored, and argues that this is a quintessential example of students' private free speech and expression.

"If you have student-led, student-initiated expression, it is to be regarded as private speech. And because it is private speech, it can't be censored or silenced by the government, short of some reasonable limitations on school kids such as obscenity or a material and substantial disruption to the school day. We don't have any of that here," Johnson said.

Interpretation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause is something Brandt says can be "a bit confused and confusing."

"Most legal scholars and many judges will admit that the opinions that come out in the Establishment Clause area have been lacking in consistency," Brandt told CNN. "There doesn't seem to have any clear guidance as to individual circumstances."

Kountze locals say town is "united"

A Facebook page started after the school district's decision called "Support Kountze Kids Faith," now has over 48,000 members, far surpassing the reaches of the roughly 2,100 residents of Kountze.

Coti Matthews says the whole town of Kountze supports her daughter and the cheerleaders, and believes they should be able to exercise their freedoms without interference.

"It was student-initiated, student-oriented. The school doesn't pay for any supplies. The school doesn't buy their uniforms. The school does not pay one dollar for anything having to do with cheerleading," she said. "The parents buy the uniforms, the camp clothes, shoes, pom-poms. The school doesn't purchase the paper or the paint or anything to make those banners."

Her daughter Macy looks forward to making religious-themed banners for the rest of her high school career.

"I would like to do this every year," Macy said. "We get into it pretty big."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Courts

soundoff (859 Responses)
  1. Amniculi

    And what about any Jewish, Muslim, or Buddhist players that might be on the team? This isn't just an atheist issue. Oh, wait, none of the above are Christian, so what they think doesn't matter.

    October 19, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • Other Foot

      This is east Texas (aka Western Mississippi), there are no Jewish, Muslim, or Buddhist players.

      October 19, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  2. Quanta

    A few banner suggestions:

    "I can't do everything, so let's have fun playing football."

    "I press on to win the football game, which we play for fun on Friday nights."

    "Since God isn't real, the other team is against us. So let's play our best."

    October 19, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  3. Evan

    I'm a Christian, but this is not right. It's a violation of the separation of Church and State. Besides, if they were going to use Koran verses, then it would be a different story.

    October 19, 2012 at 9:19 am |
  4. Really

    @ Boris As you sit up in the middle of the night in your parents basement. They must be proud.

    October 19, 2012 at 9:17 am |
  5. HIGHWAYMAN1980

    It says "And when it is school-sponsored speech, then it is subject to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and that is that the government should not promote, endorse, or advance a particular religion.", well, if we force them to NOT have this on the banners, then aren't we promoting, endorsing or advancing the athiest?

    October 19, 2012 at 9:15 am |
    • sadf

      Nope. You just aren't mentioning it. If they went up there with a banner that said "there is no god", that would endorse atheism. But leaving god out of the discussion isn't the same as promoting the opposite.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • Huebert

      No, disallowing the banner would not support atheism at all. A lack of a banner does not support anyone.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • HIGHWAYMAN1980

      And if wearing the uniforms at the game makes this illegal, then that would mean senators and members of congress can not pray in church while wearing suits as that is their "uniform" or normal dress while functioning in their governmwntal duties and our military men and women could no no longer pray while in uniform? Get real people, it doesn't matter what you are wearing... your speach is your speach and you are free to use it!!!

      October 19, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • johnlev

      No it does not. To endorses atheism would be to force them to hold up banners to declare there is no god. Just like holding up this banner is endorsing the christian god. A position of neutrality is the best course for all since it’s not an endorsement of either/or. The Government agrees to not dictate how/what you worship (or not to worship) but by the same token you cannot ask the government for preferential treatment towards your beliefs. That includes teacher led prayer or anyone representing the school actively proselytizing their faith in the administration of their duties as these cheerleaders are doing. BTW: the school can also kick these girls out for drinking at a party off school grounds while on their own time while wearing their uniforms for the same reason. It gives the impression that the school endorses teen drinking and it’s happened before. Same principal applies here.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • NoTheism

      Oh, Highwayman1980, if only it were so!!

      October 19, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • johnlev

      You’re splitting hairs there HW. Suits are not uniforms and military members can pray in their uniforms privately but they cannot actively go proselytizing in those uniforms. Or at least they are not suppose too. Nor can they campaign for political candidates in uniform or do anything that would give the appearance of preferential treatment towards one issue or another. And before you go harping about military chaplin, they are a support system that the citizen graciously provide for our troops as support personal. They far under different rules and I would classify it as “reasonable accommodations” since religious troops may not have normal access to ministers of their faith.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      Not having Christian banner endorses atheism?!? I guess it does to the same extent that not having signs to the contrary endorses squirrel worship, jello skating, the sniffing of lime zest, etc.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:38 am |
  6. JD

    Who cares? As long as prayer and cheering for a god are not mandatory (as this is not a one-religion nation) I don't care if this girls cheers for god.

    October 19, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • Greg

      Agreed !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Peoples choice 100%

      October 19, 2012 at 9:18 am |
  7. T J

    I am a Liberal and this is wonderful. Bring back prayer in schools too.

    October 19, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • mk

      And who would we pray to, TJ? Satan, Jehovah, Thor, Allah. Oh wait, I'm betting you believe that everyone should pray to YOUR god only.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  8. larry

    so your republican if you beleive in God and democrat if you don't think he is real. Nice to know!

    October 19, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • Larry L

      Republicans need the voters to believe they "own God" because their real platform would only appeal to the ultra-wealthy. Religious zealots can be easily energized on guns, gays and god and those thing don't cost the fat-cats a dime. They can secure votes from the mindless masses without actually making an investment beyond campaign contributions. Evangelicals are simply pawns and most have no real connection with the people who fund the Republican campaigns..

      October 19, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  9. BRC

    I'm all for keeping religion out of the public sector, but this was a stupid lawsuit that isn't going to help that purpose. Highschoolers made signs on their time and held them up. No different then a student in the stands holding up a religious sign. It is free speech. Go to town.

    The Freedom from Religion Foundation needs to NOT waste time effort and money processing frivolous lawsuits. Not so much beause of the waste (not my money, I don't care), but because it makes the secular cause look petty. Most people don't care about some cheerleaders in TX holding a sign, and complaining about it just gives the religious propaganda pushers out there fuel to say that there is a war on religion, that people are trying to censer "God". We're not (or, the vast majority of us aren't), we just don't want laws telling us or our children that we have to pay attention to someone else's deffinition of "God".

    October 19, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • Firebird

      Nope, you're completely wrong. If these young women were up in the stands of the football game holding up religious posters, THEN it would be free speech. But they're wearing school uniforms, and the football players wearing school uniforms are demonstrating in favor of the Christian religion on football field of a school-sanctioned game. This is no different than saying prayers over the loudspeaker of the game; in some ways, it's worse.
      Shame on the governor and attorney general for pandering to the religious right here. The only defense the people in this town can come up with is "everyone supports us! No one's offended!" Most likely that's because those who are offended are too scared to come forward, lest they become social outcasts in the community. It doesn't matter if 99% of the community supports the cheerleaders; the point of rights like the First Amendment is to protect those in the minority as well.
      This is a clear violation of the First Amendment. No ifs, ands, or buts. Anyone who says otherwise is fooling themselves.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      And if some of the players are not Christian believers (in Texas? God forbid!), they can just choose not to run through the banner and enter the field gloriously with the rest of the team. They can skulk onto the field apart from the team, drawing attention to themselves as different and an outsider. Teenagers love feeling that way. That's perfectly fair, right?

      October 19, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • BRC

      @Firebird,
      For this to be a violation of the 1st Ammendment, you're going to have to show me how this either 1) Set's one religion above all the others or 2) prevents an individual citizen from freely practicing or following their beliefs.

      If a member of the faculty helped make or hold the sign, I would agree with you. If the team, or the other team, made signs from a different religion and were told that was not allowed, I would agree with you. If a member of the team or the cheerleadign squad said the sins made them uncomfortable and it wasn't stopped I would agree with you. But as it stands, none of those things are in evidence, so it doesn't establish or violate anything. Look at it this way- what if they just used the words, without biblical citation? Same message, just less specific, would that mae the difference? IF so, then this is a non-issue, we shouldn't be quibling about a citation, there are bigger fish to fry.

      And a school uniform does not make someone an agent of the government. Hell, a government uiform doesn't make someone's action's equivalent to government endorsement (though we do have rules in place to help avoid that appearance anyway). The actions of the individual are the actions of the individual, let them be that way until there's realy something to be offended by. Like I said, I'm all for getting religion out of the public sector, I'd be happy to see it gone entirely, but petty squabbles AREN'T going to accomplish that. Fight the battles that mean something, those are the ones worth winning.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • ialsoagree

      BRC, you have a couple things wrong.

      Firstly, it's the cheerleaders that brought the lawsuit, so if the lawsuit is frivolous, what you're saying is the cheerleaders should have accepted the decision by the school to NOT have those signs. Did you even read the article? Do you even know what's going on? Clearly you didn't, and you don't. Please take the time to get informed before you comment.

      Secondly, how does this not promote a religious view over others, if buddhist, muslim, or atheist students have to run through a banner proclaiming Jesus as their savior? That's a violation of the student's free speech who isn't Christian.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • firebird

      @BRC:
      The main evidence is that the school is allowing them to demonstrate on the football field holding up an unquestionably Christian message, which is pushing one religion over others. It's a public school and a school sanctioned event, and any argument that they're acting as private citizens seems ridiculous on its face. The fact that they are wearing school uniforms is not the main issue, but it further erodes their palty defense.
      Someone has already complained, which is why the Freedom From Religion foundation is involved. But it doesn't matter if anyone's complained or not, the point is that you cannot favor one religion over another at a public school, and this is clearly what's happening here. This amendment is in place for a very important reason, namely to protect the minority that is NOT Christian from feeling compelled to have to adhere to that faith to participate in this country. How can a non-Christian on that team, in this school, feel that way when the school is allowing something like this to happen? And it doesn't make a difference whether the words are cited or not, they're clearly from the Christian bible.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • BRC

      @Ialsoagree,
      My apollogies, the Freedom from Religion Foundation didn't file suit, they filed a complaint. The complaint was what was frivolous, the cheerleader's suit for an injuction was just their reaction. Read the whole point before blowing up over a missed word. To clarify, I believe the Freedom from Religion Foundation is wasting time and effort on a minor issue.

      "Secondly, how does this not promote a religious view over others, if buddhist, muslim, or atheist students have to run through a banner proclaiming Jesus as their savior? That's a violation of the student's free speech who isn't Christian."
      Quite simply, because it's not being compared to others so you can't say it's being set over others, and because noone is forcing anyone to run through the banner. Also, and this is the important part, no government agent or organization is involved with the sign, or the players running through the sign. A cheerleaders uniform, does not make you a governmnet representative.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      "For this to be a violation of the 1st Ammendment, you're going to have to show me how this either 1) Set's one religion above all the others or 2) prevents an individual citizen from freely practicing or following their beliefs."

      BRC, if you really can't see those two things, I'm not sure anyone can show you. You are so deep in assumption that right vs. wrong = right (Christian) vs. wrong (everything else) that you may literally not be able to see it.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • ialsoagree

      BRC, if Christian football players were made to walk around a sign that said "there are no gods, Christianity is wrong, lets have a great game" you KNOW that Christians would be up in arms for that being unfair. And they'd be right, it would be unfair.

      Right now it's the exact opposite. EVERYONE but Christians are up in arms, and the Christians are saying "what? we didn't do anything wrong!"

      I call bull on the bull. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. If you don't want to walk around signs that say Christianity is a lie, then don't make others walk through signs talking about Jesus. Fair is fair.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • BRC

      @Rufus,
      Check your accusations there, I'm an athiest. I think religion is stupid. But I think one of their biggest offenses is being closed minded and dogmatic. I don't believe there are any gods, but I don't care if other people think their are. I think the signs ar gaudy and stupid, and if it wasn't Texas I'd be surprised, but I also don't care about their existence. You show me that someone on that team is offended by them, and I'm 100% behind having them stopped, though it shouldn't require legal action. It should involve that person saying, hey guys, I'm not comfortable with this.

      And people keep saying "if the signs weren't Christian, hte community would be up in arms." Probably true, it's Texas, but we don't know because it hasn't been tested; so we DON'T know that there is any discrimination. Instead of telling me I'm so wrapped up in Jesus that I can't see it, which is amusing since I think Chrisitanity is one huge lie; try to actually present your points.

      The School is ALLOWING a group to express themselves, that is not the same as endorsing.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • BRC

      @Firebird,
      Being the only sign, doesn't mean you're the most important sign. There is no way of saying that the school is endorsing this just because it's being allowed. The only way to test that would be to have signs for other religions. When that is tried, let me know.

      @Ialsoagree,
      Do unto others- I would tell them the signs are stupid, stay quiet during the team prayer, and proceed to play the game. It's the same way that I have dealt with the invocation and benediction at every military event I have ever been to. That is something that I truly disagree with, except, it's usually an individual's personnal ceremony (a retirement or change of command), so if they want a prayer on their day, they can go to town. I use the quiet to adjust my uniform and think about food.

      I don't agree with the signs, but I don't think their existence is really that big of a deal. Nd the article says that the complaint against them was made by a member of the community, not a member of the squad or team. That makes a huge difference in my evaluation. If it wa sthe team or squad, then say so and I'm all for pushing to have them gone (as I've said). But someone out in the community doesn't like a sign that says Jesus? Too bad, neither do I, but there;s nothing inherently illegal in that.

      October 19, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • ialsoagree

      BRC said: "we DON'T know that there is any discrimination."

      Wrong, we DO know their is discrimination. Specfically because you told non-christians to walk around the sign. Why do we have signs that Christians can walk through and everyone else – probably a minority, and possibly a minority that doesn't want to expose themselves – has to walk around?

      That's the very definition of being discriminitory. Keep your religious signs in the stands, not on the school sponsored field, and forcing players to make the choice of whether to walk through a sign that might violate their personal beliefs, or be the minority that walks around it.

      Separate is not equal, as we established more than 40 years ago.

      October 19, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • firebird

      It doesn't matter whether they're forced to run through the sign or not. The fact that they are being compelled and pressured to do so is violation enough.
      And talking about a hypothetical (if there were other signs) is pointless. The courts have already ruled that giving Christian prayers over a loudspeaker is a violation of the 1st Amendment. This is no different. There are no other signs, so a violation stands. The implication is still that you need to be Christian to truly be a part of the school and its mission.

      October 19, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • BRC

      @Ialsoagree,
      IT'S A BANNER. Unless you're the first guy through, noone can even see what it says as you run throught it. Comparing running through to posts that used to be holding wax paper that says "We're going to win because of Jesus" to the "seperate-but-equal" that involved providing infrerior schools, and forcing complete isolation of a race is disengenous and absurd. Don't get me wrong, discrimination against non-christians is a HUGE problem, but a high school football team having religious slogans for banners doesn't make the top 10 worste offenses (or probably even the top few hundred).

      If you're so wrapped up in worrying about other people's beliefs that crossing a line where a peice of paper used to talk about Jesus is going to upset you, then fine, walk around the banners; but you're not going to like your time in football. IT is an OVERWHELMINGLY Christian sport. I'm not saying that makes it okay, but it's a reality you have to face, because those other players are allowed to have their faith as well.

      And no, it's not discrimination, becuase you haven't shown that anyone on the team doesn't agree with the banners. Until that happens, it's just a bunch of religious (or at the least indifferent) dudes running through a sign.

      October 19, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • BRC

      @Firebird,
      You don't know and can't proved that anyone is being compelled or pressured. As much as it saddens me to say so, in a small Texas town it's actually possible that EVERYONE on that team is all for that banner.

      And banners are not equivalent to use of the PA system. The PA system is school property, it's use IS utilizing school equipment, and is much more intrusive. The students, according to teh article, bought and built the signs with their own money, that's not use of government anything. And you can say they're using government property to display the sign, but there is no proof that any other student group is being prevented from doing the same. THAT's why the other signs are worth consideration.

      October 19, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • ialsoagree

      I'm not obligated to show anyone on the team is offended to show discrimination, the fact that anyone *could* be offended makes it discriminitory.

      Further still, you haven't shown that it HASN'T discriminated. What, the 1 anonymous person was a community member, and therefor ISN'T on the team? Umm, no, all the team members ARE community members, so he could be on the team actually. Or it could be that one or more team members are discriminated but haven't said anything.

      Finally, whether or not the sport is mostly Christian, or the sign isn't a "big deal" is completely irrelevant. It's still forcing public school students to make the choice of walking through the sign – one they have almost certainly seen before the game – or not walking through it. That is the definition of "separate" choices. You're separating people based on their religious beliefs. That's discrimination.

      Whether or not it's a big deal is irrelevant. EVERY case of discrimination should be fought. After all, some taxi drivers don't like to pick up people of certain races, but we should just let that be right, because it's not a big deal?

      October 19, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • ialsoagree

      Certain races used to be forced to sit in the back of buses, simply due their race. But the back of the bus isn't a big deal, right? So we should just keep that practice going because it's not worth stopping, right?

      October 19, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • BRC

      @Ialsoagree,
      Taxi driving is a business. They are welcome to refuse service to whomsoever they want if they feel liek loosing the money from fairs and probably being fired if they work for a service.

      And discrimination DOES require an injured party. You can't discriminate against something that isn't there. I'm not saying this is the case, but is 100% of the community was Christian, then there is no problem with displaying Christian signs. You can't regulate someone's expressions because someone, somewhere might not like it.

      And yes, the members of the team and teh cheerleading squad are a part of the community, and as I have repeatedly said, if they were the ones who were against it then the signs should be stopped. But if EVERY member of the team, and EVERY member of the squad wants to participate, and some person in the stands doesn't like it... to bad dude in the stands, you're not involved so it's not your call. That is my point.

      AS for your back of the bus argument, again, not a good comparison. Someone was FORCED to do something so someone else would have better treatment purely based on an unchangeble factor, their race. That is bad, no question, no argument. But the key there was that the rule was put in place BY RACIST LAWS, ie. the government enforced discrimination. Noone is being FORCED to do anything in this case. If a student came to the school administrators and said- "I'm not comfortable with thse banners" and that SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR(ie. government agent) said "suck it up cupcake", then yes, THAT would be a 1st ammendment violation, and a case of discrimination. AS it stands, we don't know that that's happened. If they find out it did, I'll happily eat my words and watch people shred the remaining religious banners before they ever see that field. But you CANNOT stop being from expressing their religion in ways that don't cause harm, and believing that maybe someone somewhere might feel harm is not the same thing.

      October 19, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      BRC, I don't think you know sh!t from Shinola. Your posts are cringe-inducing.

      October 19, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • BRC

      @Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son,
      Sorry to hear that; care to explain why?

      October 19, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No. Get a tutor.

      October 19, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • BRC

      @Tom, Tom,
      Gladly, I'm always happy to learn. What topic am I wrong on?

      October 19, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I'm not a tutor, and I don't work for free. Either learn to express your understanding well, or get someone to help you do so.

      October 19, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • BRC

      @Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son,
      Fair enough, how's this?

      The Consttution applies only to interactions between the people and the government, for a violation of a Consttutional right to occur there must be a government aciton or agent. Cheerleaders wearing their team uniform and being on school grounds do not meet that standard. Discrimination requires an injured party, without someone (ar a group of individuals), who have suffered from a directed action there is no discrimination. In this article, there was no identification of an injured party, who met the requirements for the definition of discrimination.

      The signs, if anything, are a civil matter. A difference of opinion between two non-government parties (if there even is a difference of opinion). When the school was told that there might be a problem, they acted to stop it. The cheerleaders went to court to defend themselves in what they felt was a violation of their rights by the government (because this time were was an acting government agent). The state courts filed an injuction to stop the school from preventing free expresion beause as yet they haven't seen evidence to say that it was discriminatory. What will make the difference is what happens next. If every person on the team and on the squad signed an affidavit saying they stand by the signs, then the school removes the restiriction, everyone can move on, and they can go back to making their silly god-mongering signs. If there is even ONE hold-out, then the courts should pull back their injuction, and say the school was in the right, the signs are discontinued.

      That clear enough for you?

      October 19, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  10. Greg

    This is a joke.....Don't like it don't go to the game. If you go shopping and do not like something on the shelf are you going to buy it NO, same princple here. This country is out of control.

    October 19, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • snowboarder

      greg – wrong answer. if the children were holding banners with koranic quotes you would likely see parents standing on the administrators desk.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • Larry L

      Non-Christians have every right to attend a game in a facility they helped fund, with coaches paid with their tax money, where their kids attend and possibly play on the team. Right-wing Christianity is trying to become the American Taliban – with everybody else expected to adapt to your religion and way of life. You're not the oppressed – you are the oppressors.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:11 am |
    • Greg

      snowboarder wrong you do not know me so don't put words in my mouth. People have the right of free speech and they have the right to voice their views, unless it is something that is a threat to our country or man people have those very rights to express themselves no matter if everyone likes it or not. The bill of rights grants us all that and we all should understand that.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:11 am |
    • Greg

      Larry L and the same applies in reverse that the Chirstians have the very same right.
      This is not a right or left wing issue this is an issue that is straight up BS. Everyone is trying to please everyone else but it will never happen.
      Personally I am tired of listening to Atheists whine and complain about everything litte freakin thing. Grow up and deal with it

      October 19, 2012 at 9:15 am |
    • Firebird

      Greg, that same amendment includes the freedom not to have religion pushed on you by the government. This is a public school, and the cheerleaders are clearly representing the school when they're wearing school uniforms and putting on a show for a school-sanctioned event (the football game), not to mention the football players in school uniforms running through the banners.
      If these women were sitting in the stands, then you can claim freedom of speech, and I would defend it as well. It doesn't apply here.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • Greg

      Why should I sit back and let the Atheists tell me what I can and can not do. If you do not like something do you but or watch it anyway NO same princple. Would you go into a Mosque and sit there just because you can and express your opinions there?

      Atheists no matter what religion you are Atheists will find something to complain / whine about it. Not everyone can be happy at one time.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • firebird

      This is not strictly an atheist issue. What if you're a jewish football player and forced to run through that banner, or Muslim, or Buddhist, etc? Not everyone in this country follows the Christian religion.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Larry L

      Greg – Could cheerleaders simply use their judgement to exercise their free speech? So if they were Satan-worshipers you'd be okay with a sign that read "Jesus was a Gay Man From Africa!"? After all... under your rules that would be "free speech". So you'd consider it their right to display that sign in a publicly-funded forum?

      October 19, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • WASP

      @greg: yeah and we got tired of christians whineing and crying over "the ground zero mosque." etc etc etc. you folks were all up in arms over these folks just wanting to practice their religion, but when it comes to one of your own you're all "stop picking on us." "we have our rights too." " why the war on christians, we don't bother anyone."
      BS all christians do is bother people, otherwise this wouldn't be a story because the banner wouldn't have been made.
      here's something to chew on, why do you think the principle shut it down in the first place? could it be one of the students DOESN'T PRACTICE YOUR FAITH and was offended?

      October 19, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • snowboarder

      greg – if you read my comment correctly you would see that i said "you would see parents standing", not "you would be standing"

      this is only not an issue because it is a rural community with a small minority of other religions. in suburban or urban america the banners would never have made it to the field.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • Jeff

      So Greg are you saying that if you are not a Christian, then don't go to the game?

      October 19, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • tallulah13

      Greg, it's not atheists "telling you what to do". It's the Consti.tution of the United States of America.

      October 19, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Greg, if you're "tired of hearing atheists whine" then don't come on here and read their comments.

      Same principle, dumbazz.

      October 19, 2012 at 10:17 am |
  11. me

    When will religious people realize that cramming that garbage down EVERYONE'S throat will not change the fact that 1 in 25 do NOT believe. Why don't we see articles about Atheists doing stuff like this? Who'd come to their rescue? It'd be nothing but ridicule.

    October 19, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • NoTheism

      1 in 5 have no religion at all =)

      October 19, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • Greg

      The reason Atheists do not do anything like this is because they have no faith. Why is it that every time that something like this happens Atheists are all over it trying to stop people from what they believe in? Why do Atheists believe that their way is the right way? This is a FREE country and if you do not like something you are not "forced" to do participate or buy it. If you do not like a TV show do you still sit there and watch it NO you change the channel there is more than enough other things out there that you could do.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • WASP

      @greg: that is exactly what we are trying to do..............change the channel. we don't agree with what is being broadcast in the public arena paid for by everyone in amerca, so we are saying "booo change the channel." just to make things fair let's have islamic scripture at these games as well. you ok with that, no? then CHANGE THE CHANNEL.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • Rhubarb

      These students are exercising their right to free speech and persuit of faith under the First Amendment, in our free, Democratic society. No one is forcing you or anyone else to believe any of it, and certainly no one is "cramming that garbage down everyone's throat".

      Freedom OF religious expression does not also mean freedom FROM religious expression. If this whole thing bothers you, accept it as a consequence of living in a Democracy and get on with your life.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • NoTheism

      @Greg, you clearly don't understand what is at issue for atheists...
      It IS about freedom FROM religion; it is about respecting the Consti.tution; and it is about respecting people. Why is it not ok if some crazy town in the middle of nowhere decides to start practicing extremist behavior (and, yes, I do consider this a kind of extremist behavior)? Because even if there is 1 atheist, 1 Muslim, or 1 Hindu in those bleachers, or in the team, they are not being respected, their rights are being violated... Call it tyranny of the majority (which, in fact, it is exactly so), if you like.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • Greg

      @Wasp I am fine with whatever these young ladies want to do as long as it idoes not threaten this country or countrymen.

      Yes it is in PUBLIC and if these girls are doing this with their own funds then let them. They are not usiing "your tax dollars" nor are they getting paid to do this. This property is own with tax dollars from all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That is the only argument you really have is that it is on government land. With that said you may want to focus on Washington first

      October 19, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • WASP

      @rhu: then accept islamics building mosques near the twin towers and in your neighborhood. then accept atheists attending public funded schools and standing up for our rights to be FREE FROM RELIGION as our founding fatehrs made this country.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • WASP

      @greg: "This property is own with tax dollars from all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
      exactly, it was paid for by the christians and the atheists and the muslims and shiks and the hindus and the satanic and the mormons and etc etc etc so display equality and show verses from ALL RELIGIONS or NONE AT ALL.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  12. halfbakedlunatic

    'god' is an idiotic idea promoted by immoral people to control and pacify the weak minded. It has no place in the lives of people with IQ's over 65. I guess that explains the cheerleaders.

    October 19, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • Rhubarb

      You have every right to not believe in God if you so choose. And you can tell Him that when you stand in front of Him someday.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • nottolate

      And yet your screen name says it all.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • Elizabeth

      That certainly was ugly! You sound like a biiter person, maybe someone who has been mistreated by the better looking, more attractive people in society.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  13. Natosha

    Teens are allowed to wear Christian shirts to school. Christian school clubs can wear school shirts with scriptures on them. What's the difference? They buy the supplies, they make the signs on their own time, they are not school endorsed, they are actually suing the school district. It is freedom of speech and freedom of religion. They aren't stopping other people from holding signs from other religions.

    October 19, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      The difference is these are officially recognized (even uniformed) representatives of a public school at a taxpayer-funded event. Why is that always so hard for people to understand?

      It would really help if people familiarized themselves with the long history of Supreme Court decisions on this topic.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • AAAAHHHHhhhhhhh

      Sure, the townspeople and many Americans will say it's freedom of speech while they are quoting scripture from the bible, but if they were to quote from the kuran, you can bet it would suddenly be a huge problem for them.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • WASP

      @nat: what you are missing is they are wearing the school name and colors while they are holding up this trype. they are performing on school property and using school resources to do it.
      yes the football stadium lighting is a school resouce because the school gets the bill.
      so if they want to write scripture on a banner then go to a private school, not a public school paid for by my taxes.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • Larry L

      Would you be okay with the cheerleaders posting signs that read "Satan Lives and Jesus is Gay". How about "Jesus ran around with a bunch of men... What's with that?". Or "Allah can kick Jesus' @$$!". As you can see, free speech must be moderated with reason and respect. You can't let children run the show. That's a public forum funded by taxpayer money.

      Why not worship as you see fit but leave public arenas alone? Look around – mega-churches are everywhere in Texas. If a person wanted to practice Christianity it would be easy to find an open door. All people have rights in our society – not just Christians.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • peter

      The difference is public school vs. religious school. Just imagine one group of students want to display chirstian banners and another group of students want to display Islamic banners. What do public schools do?

      October 19, 2012 at 9:08 am |
  14. Jack Deal

    it's unclear which God they are cheering?

    October 19, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I imagine the smelly brown one.

      October 19, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      The Only True One (TM), of course.

      October 19, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • Rhubarb

      They are quoting God's holy Word, so it's obvious that they are referencing the God of the Bible. The One and Only.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  15. snowboarder

    i suppose in rural east texas they are a much more h0m0geneous religious community, but i can't see scriptures on run through banners passing muster in any suburban or urban setting.

    imagine being the player practicing a different religion and being forced to run through a banner for a competing religion.

    October 19, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • Namey

      "Hey Coach....is it OK if me and some of the guys just, like, um, run AROUND the banner......we think Mormonism is a cult...."

      😉

      October 19, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • snowboarder

      namey – what a way to show team cohesion.

      October 19, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • ATLGA

      Teams are diverse and something this simple wouldn't divide....weak argument

      October 19, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • snowboarder

      atlga – but we know you are dead wrong. religion is naturally divisive and some people take it much more seriously than it warrants.

      October 19, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • Carl

      This is a shameful abuse of judicial power who clearly interjected his own personal religious beliefs into his "decision". Jesus Christ does not belong in any public school supported by taxpayer funds.

      October 19, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • NoTheism

      @ATLGA, actually, I think that snowboarder has a good point; I wouldn't run through that banner... Would you run through a banner that had some Islamic scripture on it?

      October 19, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • snowboarder

      no theism – personally, i would run through a banner with text from any religion because it is meaningless to me. it is the adherents to other religions who are being slighted.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  16. Namey

    It's all well and good until next week the cheerleaders from another school want their game banners to read "Sacrifice the Eagles: Hail Satan!" which is, of course, their right...freedom of speech and all. Oh yeah, not gonna happen.....!!!

    October 19, 2012 at 8:48 am |
  17. Other Foot

    The irony is that in the end, they themselves rip the banner to shreds.

    October 19, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • Kilo

      Well, that is more of your personal symbolic meaning, in which you definetely have the right to think that and speak it, thanks to the 1st Amendment.

      October 19, 2012 at 8:57 am |
  18. FFighter2

    I don't live there.. And I'm sorry if one persone in the stands was offended by the sign.. boo hoo to them. The vast majority of the town seem to be on the side of the cheerleaders so as far as I'm concerned I think the banners should stay. It's their town and I don't see how we who couldn't even pick this town out on a map have any place weighing in on this.

    And to all the Atheists out there.. You seem to be WAY more radical about christianity than christans are. Just saying I don't see christians intentionally trying to insult and censor athiests.. However I have seen Athiests do that!

    October 19, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • BigGuy

      So here ia a quote from the bible that should be on the banner:
      Psalm18
      18:40 Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me.
      18:41 They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the LORD, but he answered them not.
      18:42 Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.
      18:43 Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and thou hast made me the head of the heathen: a people whom I have not known shall serve me.

      October 19, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • mk

      "Just saying I don't see christians intentionally trying to insult and censor athiests"

      Really? I think you just did in this post.

      October 19, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • ATLGA

      There is good and evil.....there will be judgement, so what's your point?

      October 19, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • lunchbreaker

      Very nice BigGuy. That would be intimidating.

      October 19, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • Larry L

      Your comments could have been made about racism. If the majority of a town is of a particular race would it be reasonable for them to create rules segregating schools, restrooms, and restaurants? Is a majority justification for violation of rights?

      Recent studies show over 20% of Americans identify themselves as having no belief in religion. Don't they have a right to send their children to a school (funded by tax money) where those kids aren't brainwashed by religious slogans or ostracized for not practicing Christianity? Freedom isn't just about the practices you like. Christianity has simply become a bigger cult than many others but Christians have no right to impose their dogma on others.

      October 19, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • Primewonk

      The vast majority of people in this area still think humans were created 6,000 years ago. That doesn't mean we were.

      The vast majority of people in this area still think the universe magically poofed into existence 5 days before humans were created. That doesn't mean it was.

      The vast majority of people in this area still think interracial marriage is wrong. That doesn't mean it is.

      The vast majority of people in this area still think gays chose to be gay, and thus are icky. That doesn't mean they are.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • FFighter2

      Yeah.. To bad it's not about racism.

      So let me ask you this... Is it ok to trample on the rights of many to protect the rights one? Because that seems to be what's going here. The many are expressing their right to free speech AND their right of freedom of religion but one person said says that they feel that their right to freedom of (from) religion is being infringed on because they saw a sign that had some bible quotes on it? Tell me I don't this situation right?

      Now let me ask you this.. if everyone is in the right here.. then shouldn't the majority rule? In that case then shouldn't banners stay? OR do you hate god that much that you would side with the minority over the mojority?

      Once again.. Everyone is right so if this indeed goes to trial then someone's rights will have to be denied. So who's it going to be?

      October 19, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • Jeff

      And in the deep south, the vast majority of townsfolk are still racist, so they should be able to openly support the KKK. Just because a "majority" of the folks belief something, it may not be right. During WWII, did a majority of Germans think that the Jews were bad and therefore were they right to exterminate them? A majority of people in the wrong is still a wrong.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  19. Infidel50

    If only these stupid #@@$%'s knew how much god hates women. Are they trying to "teach" me something? Strictly forbidden by gods words,... not mine.

    October 19, 2012 at 8:42 am |
  20. coolhead

    Banners on the field and prayer before a game would be fine by me if they let someone do a prayer and banner to the flying spaghetti monster, or any other belief system as well, and equally. I would imagine those that support christian prayer and banners would not want all other religions allowed on the field as well. Am I right?

    October 19, 2012 at 8:35 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Who says those banners wouldn't be allowed?

      October 19, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • Rhubarb

      ALL other religions besides Christianity should have equal access in our Democratic society, despite the fact that they are false belief systems. Jesus Christ's life, work, and actions unequivocally proved this.

      Curious how these other belief systems never want to paint banners, etc. Christians do these things because spreading the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is the central tenent of the faith. If someone rejects Him, that is simply their choice, but the stakes and consequences of unforgiven sin couldn't be higher. But take heart: Our loving Father has provided a way out...HIs Son.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • Sam Yaza

      but your father is a liar, who will say anything so you would flatter him, its called vanity. Oh and Christ was a human, or at the most a demi-god; which does not make him anything special,.. i heard his story before. Dionysus, Horus, Mithras Kim il-sung

      October 19, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.