Small Town Cheerleaders Inspire the Nation
Updated August 6th, 2014
Matthews v. Kountze ISD
In an effort to share positive and uplifting messages with their football players, the middle school and high school cheerleaders in Kountze, Texas, made a team decision to paint Bible verses on run-through banners at games. Their inspirational signs were suddenly banned after the superintendent received a complaint letter from the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF).
Groups like FFRF, ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State are ratcheting up their attacks on public schools across America looking to completely eliminate any trace of faith or religion. The situation in Kountze is a quintessential example of students’ private speech being censored unnecessarily by uninformed school officials. A well-established principle of constitutional law provides that students don’t shed their constitutional rights of free speech when they enter the schoolhouse gate.
- Middle school and high school cheerleaders in Kountze, Texas, decided to paint Bible verses on run-through banners used at school football games. The verses were intended to share positive and inspirational messages with the players and fans.
- The decision to use Bible verses was that of the entire cheer squad, the students themselves, and the cheerleaders and their families purchased all materials.
- After receiving a complaint letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Kountze ISD superintendent made the decision to ban the religious messaging.
- The cheerleaders, supported by their parents and their entire community, made the bold decision to fight for their free speech and religious liberty rights.
- On September 24, 2012, Liberty Institute and Beaumont attorney David Starnes filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Kountze cheerleaders and their parents, seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) and temporary injunction to prohibit government school officials from censoring the cheerleader’s religious speech.
- The judge granted the TRO (and later a temporary injunction) allowing the cheerleaders to continue encouraging their football team with spirited banners and signs through the remainder of the 2012 football season.
- In the following months, the young women faced an intense battle for religious freedom that included numerous hearings, many motions and pleadings, and long days of depositions in which they endured hours of brutal questioning.
- On May 8, 2013, all of America celebrated with the Kountze cheerleaders when Hardin County District Court Judge Steven Thomas entered an order granting the cheerleaders a victory.
- However, after failing to suppress private expression of faith and losing its case against the cheerleaders, Kountze ISD filed an appeal.
The battle for students’ religious freedom is now headed to the Texas Supreme Court. Liberty Institute is committed to the fight, and we ask that you continue to pray for our attorneys as they redouble their efforts to protect the religious freedom of the Kountze Cheerleaders and students throughout the country.
While we do receive donated time from our amazing volunteer attorneys, like David Starnes, Liberty still carries a big financial burden. As this case heads to appeal, Liberty will incur tens of thousands of dollars in costs.
Liberty depends on support from caring people like you. Please consider a gift today to help us in this crucial fight. Every dollar will be spent wisely and will make a significant impact for our freedoms.
Texas Senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz File Amicus Brief - 11/16/15
Kountze Cheerleaders Win: Other Cheerleaders at Risk
Press Release 8/6/14 - Link
Filed Petition 8/6/14 - Link