Ken Paxton

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Attorney General Abbott Calls Ruling Declaring Kountze High School Cheerleaders Religious Banners Constitutional a Victory for Religious Liberties

AUSTIN Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued the following statement after a ruling today declaring the Kountze High School cheerleaders’ religious football banners Constitutional and permissible:

This is a victory for religious liberties and for high school cheerleaders who stood up to powerful forces that tried to silence their voices. The Freedom From Religion Foundation was wrong in trying to bully Kountze ISD into prohibiting the cheerleaders from displaying banners with religious messages. Our 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. The Kountze Cheerleaders are heroes who fought for principles, and won!"

In Sept. 2012, Attorney General Abbott sent a letter to the Kountze ISD Superintendent offering assistance to the school district in response to a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation that incorrectly claimed that the cheerleaders should be prohibited from displaying banners with Bible verses at football games. In Oct. 2012, the Texas Attorney General’s Office filed a motion to intervene on behalf of the State in the lawsuit regarding the banners. Most recently, in April 2013 the State filed a briefing with the court in response to briefs filed by the cheerleaders and the school district.

The State’s action in the Kountze ISD case reflects Attorney General Abbott’s latest effort to defend public acknowledgments of religion. The State’s religious liberties cases include:

In 2011, Attorney General Abbott sent a letter to Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders in response to a threat the county had received from the Freedom From Religion Foundation regarding a nativity scene on the grounds of the Henderson County courthouse.
In 2011, the Attorney General’s Office submitted a legal brief asking a federal appeals court to uphold Medina Valley High School graduates’ constitutional rights to freely express their religious beliefs during graduation ceremonies.
In January 2009, after Attorney General Abbott submitted a legal brief joined by all 50 state attorneys general, a federal judge cleared the way for President Barack Obama to include references to religion during his Presidential Inauguration.
In 2007, Attorney General Abbott defeated a lawsuit that attempted to remove the words under God from the Texas Pledge of Allegiance.
In 2005, Attorney General Abbott appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court and defended the State’s Ten Commandments monument, which stands on the Texas Capitol grounds. In that case, Van Orden v. Perry, the plaintiff sought to remove the Ten Commandments monument from the Capitol grounds, but Attorney General Abbott successfully argued that the monument was entirely constitutional.
After Attorney General Abbott submitted a legal brief defending the right of Texas schoolchildren to begin each school day with the Pledge of Allegiance followed by a minute of silence to "reflect, pray, [or] meditate" before class, a federal appeals court upheld the Texas Moment of Silence law.