The case began in 2012, and lawyers for cheerleaders fighting a Texas school district over their free-speech rights say it’s about time for the district to resolve it.
Hiram Sasser is one of the lawyers working with First Liberty on behalf of the cheerleaders from the Kountze Independent School District who have had their right to put Bible verses on run-through banners at football games affirmed in the Texas court system.
However, the case continues because the school district has notified the state Supreme Court it will file another appeal.
Sasser said the Ninth Court of Appeals correctly ruled last fall that the Kountze cheerleaders have a right to have “religious speech” on their banners, which they created and purchased with their own money.
“Why is the school district continuing to fight against this decision and the cheerleaders? When will the school district stop filing appeal after appeal and finally accept that the cheerleaders are free to have religious speech on their run through banners?” he asked.
Sasser said he hopes the Texas Supreme Court “will not even require the cheerleaders to respond and thus bring an end to the school district’s scorched-earth litigation tactics against the Kountze cheerleaders. Enough is enough.”
Multiple Texas courts have ruled that such speech should be considered the cheerleaders’, not the school’s, and, therefore, is constitutional.
The school insists it has the authority to control the cheerleaders’s speech.
While the district has declared it will appeal, the paperwork has not been completed.
WND reported last fall, the Ninth Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the cheerleaders, affirming the banners are a form of protected private speech.
In opposition to the cheerleaders, District Attorney Thomas Brandt, at that time, wanted the court to review the case because the Texas courts’ decision “leads to absurd results,” such as allowing the cheerleaders to display a Confederate flag or drug paraphernalia.
He claimed that the Texas courts were wrong to conclude that “a reasonable observer” would not interpret the banners as government speech.
According to the Beaumont Enterprise newspaper: “Brandt argued that because the banners are made by members of an official school organization, at school-sponsored and supervised practices on school property and are displayed on school property at a time where access to the field is limited, a reasonable person would interpret the banners as school-sponsored.”
The case began when parents of seven Kountze cheerleaders sued the district after school officials, responding to a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, banned the squad from putting Bible verses on its signs.
The district has tried several maneuvers to assert its claim to control cheerleaders’ speech, including an announcement that it would allow the banners, but claim control of the speech, as well as an attempt to get rid of the case by arguing it was moot because most of the cheerleaders had graduated.
The Texas courts earlier found: “The cheerleaders contend that a single, dispositive fact controls the categorization of speech of the run-through banners: the school district allows the cheerleaders to select the message that is placed on the banners. … Because the students select the message each week and not the school, the statements on the run-through banners must be categorized as pure private speech of the cheerleaders.”
WND reported Sens. John Cornyn, R-Ariz., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, filed a brief in support of the cheerleaders. Cornyn, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, was a district judge, a member of the Supreme Court of Texas and attorney general of Texas.
He argued on behalf of the state of Texas in the Santa Fe Independent School District case that has been cited by the school district for its right to censor student messages.
Cruz previously was solicitor general of Texas, representing the state in a number of religious liberty cases.