KOUNTZE, Texas, May 28, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The Kountze Independent School District is asking a Texas appeals court to clarify a state district court's ruling from earlier this month that permits local high school cheerleaders to print religious themes on the "run-through" banners they display at football games.
In the earlier ruling, Judge Steve Thomas of the 365th District Court in Hardin County found that the banners were allowed under the U.S. Constitution, but stopped short of saying the cheerleaders have a free speech right to include the religious messages. Attorneys for the cheerleaders maintain that the judge's decision grants their clients such a right even though Judge Thomas' ruling does not explicitly say so. The same attorneys also have said they anticipate additional litigation in the case.
"We think the attorneys on the other side are reading into the court's decision rights that just aren't there," says attorney Tom Brandt of Fanning Harper Martinson Brandt & Kutchin in Dallas, who represents Kountze ISD. "The school district believes that it is in everyone's best interests to seek clarification rather than subject the district to additional costly litigation in the future.
"The school board's decision to appeal was not made lightly," Mr. Brandt says, "particularly given the fact that the district court's order actually granted some of the relief the school district sought, namely, that Kountze ISD is not required to prohibit religious-themed banners at school sporting events."
Mr. Brandt filed the district's appeal today in the 9th Court of Appeals in Beaumont.
The case began last fall when the run-through banners prompted a complaint from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based legal advocacy group that claims the banners violate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Plano, Texas-based Liberty Institute, an advocacy organization that represents a few of the cheerleaders, claims the cheerleaders have a free speech right to say whatever they choose on the banners.
"The school district has consistently argued for a middle ground," Mr. Brandt says. "Schools should have the flexibility to make decisions about what messages can go on these banners based on the needs of the school and of the community. The school district has no desire to be hostile to religion, or even to appear hostile by automatically excluding any and all religious-themed messages, nor does it desire to establish any religion. The school district is trying to take a common sense approach to deciding how the banners should represent the school."
For more information on the appeal in the Kountze cheerleader banner case, please contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or [email protected].
SOURCE Fanning Harper Martinson Brandt & Kutchin