As a small East Texas high school that ordered cheerleaders to stop using banners with Bible verses at football games continues to make national headlines, the Texas Attorney General , Greg Abbott, intervened on behalf of the girls.
The Republican wrote a letter to the Kountze Independent School District on Thursday saying that the legal advice he received to end the practice of running through banners at games was “erroneous” and that “the Supreme Court did not ever ruled that religion should be ‘kept out’ of public schools.”
The school halted the gambling ritual after the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Based in Wisconsin organization that advocates the separation of church and state, threatened with prosecution.
The foundation sent a letter to the district, which has about 1,300 students, two weeks ago saying the display of the banners “offends non-Christians and non-believers.” He listed several examples of the high court canceling religious activities and messages sponsored by a public school.
Abbott called the band’s letter “threatening and deceptive” and said the U.S. Supreme Court cases he cited involved “decisions by public officials to promote a religious message or direct the content of a private citizen’s religious message” and not decisions made by students – especially like those in Kountze who built the banners off school property and without school funds.
In response, the foundation issued a statement saying that Abbott “fails recognize the difference between free speech, such as what fans might say in the stands, and government speech, such as what uniformed cheerleaders say as school representatives at events sponsored by the school.
After receiving the letter from the Wisconsin foundation, officials told parents that religious symbols would not be permitted at school events. This caught the attention of the Plano-based Liberty Institute, which obtained a 10-day restraining order against school district to allow cheerleaders to continue showing Bible verses on the field.
A district spokeswoman said he did not respond to Abbott’s letter and said a hearing in the restraining order case is scheduled for Oct. 4. David Bellow, a conservative blogger from Hardin County, where the district is located, reported that a rally is planned to show support for the students at the upcoming home football game on Oct. 5.