God Roots for the Kountze Lions

A Texas state judge last week issued a temporary injunction allowing a group of cheerleaders in Kountze, Texas to continue to display banners with Christian messages at high school football games. They have permission to use the signs for the rest of this football season.

The question of where religion belongs in public education is a tricky one.

While the Supreme Court has said that schools cannot sponsor and encourage religious messages at school functions, it has also said that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

The Kountze Independent School District, about 85 miles northeast of Houston, had told the cheerleaders last month that they could not display the banners because they represented school-sponsored speech. The district had received a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, (FFRF) based in Madison, Wisconsin, on behalf of an anonymous local resident.

FFRF argued that the cheerleaders were violating the Constitution when they displayed Christian messages; the group sent the school district a letter demanding that the students’ practice of holding signs with religious references for the football players to run through prior to the game be immediately stopped.

So what did these banners say?

From Education Week:

The messages include, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens! Phil 4:13″ and “But thanks be to God which gives us Victory though our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor 15:57.” The football team members rip through the banners at the start of each home game.

The decision by the judge in state district court in Hardin County came the day after Governor Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott, both Republicans, described the efforts by the Kountze school district to prohibit the banners “a great insult,” and something that went against a state law requiring districts to treat student expression of religious views and secular views in the same manner.

The state court agreed and ruled that at least until the case goes to full trial next June, the students have a right to continue displaying the religious messages.

From The New York Times:

At a hearing on Thursday, the judge, Steven Thomas, issued a temporary injunction against the district, prohibiting it from enforcing the ban on religious-themed banners, and set a trial date of June 24, 2013. Judge Thomas, who was appointed to the bench by Mr. Perry last year, did not rule on the merits of the case, though he suggested in his order granting the temporary injunction that the district’s policy was unlawful.

Lawyers for the school district said they would abide by the injunction, but left open the possibility of appealing the judge’s decision. “I haven’t ruled it out, but I don’t know that my client is desirous of an appeal,” said a lawyer for the district, Thomas P. Brandt.

Martin B. Cominsky, the director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Southwest office, called the judge’s decision misguided, saying that the banners represented a school-sponsored religious message. Lawyers for the cheerleaders, however, argued that the banners amounted to private speech, not government-sanctioned speech, and they were joined at the hearing by a lawyer from the attorney general’s office.

But the legal fight is far from over.

The suit in next year’s trial will argue that the Kountze High School cheerleaders, a student-run squad, selected the religious messages independently and thus they have a free speech right to display them.

The Kountze Independent School District will respond that the banners were akin to the student-initiated prayers before football games that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in a 2000 case from Texas known as Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe.

Interestingly, the banners read, “If God is with us, who can be against us?”

So what if the opposing team had the same banner? Would they just call it a draw?


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Photo Credit: thinkstock


Beth M.
Beth M5 years ago

Not with my tax dollars! I don't want religion running any public school district and it appears that the judge is allowing Christians to run Kountze High School.

Michael M.
Michael T5 years ago

I'd love to see you try to make that argument in court Harley.

pam w.
pam w5 years ago

Apparently, SOMEONE here fell asleep in school and never learned about separation of church/state. Some things are just inappropriate and the waving of bible verses on public athletic fields by students representing that school are totally inappropriate.

I can't imagine those girls thought it all up by themselves and had no "faculty advisory person" to approve/disapprove.

So...they're little TOOLS to push the envelope....

And, like Harley, they'll never learn the definitions of "appropriate" or "separation of church/state" or even "good taste."

Such banners are designed to make non-Christians feel discomfort. VERY JESUS-Y....isn't it?

Harley Williams
Harley W5 years ago

So the girls have to have the Goverment tell them that they cannot make the banners they want for their school. The school must tell them what to do and how to do it and keep them from mentioning GOD. And if someone thinks the students have rights then they are rednecks.

Originally rednecks referred to Union sympathizers in the coal mine who wore red hankerchiefs around their neck.

Here I had always heard that liberals were for the rights of people. I guess it depends on what views they express with their first admendment rights.

John  R Huff  Jr
John R Huff Jr5 years ago

This is ridiculous. Had this been a private or church related school, then perhaps one could look past it, but this is a public school and it appears the board and administration is very backward and not progressive minded. In other words, a redneck hick place in the sticks.

Martin S.
Martin S.5 years ago

Has anyone been following the Kountze Lion's record - since they've been charging through their "All Hail Jaysus and Apple Pie" banners? Let me quote Jody Seaborn, in the Statesman (Austin, TX) - posted 11/1/2012:

"Alas, the winning effect the banners may have had on the Lions has forsaken the team. Victory has become elusive. The last two weeks have been particularly rough. Kountze lost 64-10 to the undefeated and district-leading Newton Eagles on Oct. 19 and 26-7 last week to the 6-2 East Chambers Buccaneers.
"I’ve been following the fate of the Kountze Lions since I first read about the cheerleaders’ banners weeks ago. Cheerleaders, as you cheer for glory, have you noticed that your Lions have been outscored 90-17 the past two weeks? That they lost three of their four games in October?"

Perhaps those pious yet outlaw cheerleaders should study up on Matthew 6:5 and 6, where I quote from the King James Cambridge version:
6:5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

6:6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

I do look forward to that day, where once again, most of not all Americans have read, understand and place the highes

Martin S.
Martin S.5 years ago

The facts are clear: The events in question are school sponsored, on school property and the cheerleaders are organized and operate under the official umbrella of the school and the taxpayer funded school system.

These prayer banners serve no secular purpose. There is no legal constitutional justification to have them continue. No amount of mealy-mouthed posturing by theocrats and their lawyers will not change that. Bad decisions by local judges afraid to do the right thing will not change that.

The Kountze High School is a publicly funded institution, which receives its monies from all the taxpayers – not just the Christian ones. Having them display overtly religious banners at school sponsored events can only leave others feel like complete outsiders. Because that’s what sectarian prayers do – they separate the US a people into just us and them.

With all the brave men and women, overseas and in harm’s way who have sworn an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution – the least we can do is to make sure we honor that same Constitution (and its principles) here at home.

No one's personal god or so-called holy book trumps our shared Constitution. That's what it means to be an American.

Ask yourselves this: Would it be OK for the cheerleaders to put up banners that say: "There is NO GOD - Win this for yourselves!", or "Heil Hitler" with a big swastika, instead of the current bible verses? How about verses from the Koran

Nikolas Karman
Nikolas K5 years ago

Amusement a Latin word meaning to keep one from thinking .So nothing has changed since the games in the Colosseum, er maybe we have not regressed to the stage of actually demanding the death of the losers like in ancient Rome but we are getting close by beating up the supporters of the opposing team.
Maybe the cheerleaders with their christian messages are just the thin edge of the wedge to the day when we allow the killing of losing teams at the ball game. Just like we condone the bombing and killing of people in foreign lands by our military in the name of Christianity because they dont share the American ideal that the world and all its resources belongs to them because they have the biggest stick on the planet, hello people you cant have your cake and eat it as well.

Christine Stewart

I surely hope God is not preferring one sport team over another (or even bothering to pay attention to sports!)

Karen Howard
Karen H5 years ago

I just wonder how the judge would have ruled if the cheerleaders had wanted to use quotes from the Koran or other religious text.