This post is inspired by the town of Kountze, Texas, 85 miles northeast of Houston, where the local public high school cheerleading squad heads to court this week over their practice of hoisting banners up for the football players to crash through — only their banners spout off religious bible verses.
For awhile, the Kountze cheerleaders supported their football team, the Lions, just like we did at St. Mark’s School of Texas, with banners saying stuff like “Go Lions!” Or “Roar!”. But then the cheerleaders invoked Christianity to help the team. The school superintendent down in Kountze banned the signs a couple weeks ago after he was contacted by an attorney with the Freedom from Religion Foundation in Madison, Wis. That org said it got an anonymous citizen complaint: Kountze is a public school cheerleading team, and the lawyer cited a 2000 U.S. Supreme Court decision, involving another Texas case, which prohibited formal student-initiated school prayers conducted over the public-address system in schools at the beginning of sports events. No more religious banners, she said!
But then, a state district court judge in Hardin County issued a temporary restraining order lifting the ban after the Liberty Institute, a Plano, Texas, group promoting religious freedom, offered to represent the cheerleaders and asked the court to issue a permanent injunction.
See where I’m going with this? A Plano group steps in to help out and lift a hand. The kids in Kountze say they got the idea off Pinterest, from another small town high school, Georgia’s Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. That was in 2009 and like now, the Georgia school’s district banned the banners following complaints.
The cheerleaders go to court this week. Meantime, the citizens of Kountze, and the Attorney General of Texas, are rallying behind the kiddos. The local branch’s banner says: “Citizens Bank Supports Our Kids.” A football mom has a Facebook page called “Support Kountze Kids’ Faith” with 44,800 members. There is a web site selling T-shirts to help defray court costs. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott vowed to file a legal brief in support of the cheerleaders’ religious liberties.
So is this why people move their families to small towns, like Kountze or Keller or Melissa or Sunnyvale? And if the cheerleaders of Kountze lose this case — this freedom of expression — what does this mean for that good old small town life so many parents crave for their kids? I say this as a mom whose daughter started a club called “Agnostically Speaking” at Hockaday, as a protest to all the religious clubs she saw on campus. Hockaday supported her 100% — freedom of religion and speech.
So why can’t the cheerleaders continue holding up their Bible verse signs as long as the lone agnostic(s) in the group can hold up agnostic signs? (WWAS: What Would Agnostics Say?) Looking at this map by Gallup, Texas is one of the most religious states in the USA, along with most of the south and Utah. But Texas is not one of the top five most religious states: Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Utah and Mississippi.
I’ll say one thing: the football team is undefeated this year in Kountze…