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The following is an archived video story. The text content of that video story is available below for reference. The original video has been deleted and is no longer available.

Response to Supreme Court ruling to allow prayer before government meetings related to Kountze cheerleader case

BEAUMONT-By: Leslie Rangel

The narrowly divided supreme court ruled that Christian prayer is allowed before government meetings, declaring them in line with long national traditions.

It's a ruling that could impact many cases around the state, including one involving Kountze Cheerleaders and run-through banners with bible
verses.

Kountze ISD appealed a state district judge's ruling that allowed the banners.

Attorneys for both sides say the supreme court ruling may help clarify a ruling in the appeal in favor of the cheerleaders.

The fight began in 2012, when the district stopped cheerleaders holding up run-through banners with bible verses at football games.

In turn, a lawsuit was filled against the district claiming Kountze ISD was violating the students' freedom of speech.

A state district court judge ruled in favor of the cheerleaders saying they were allowed to display their religious banners because their speech was private speech, not coming from the government.

In turn, Kountze ISD filed an appeal with the Texas 9th court of appeals.

Kountze ISD says they are in favor of allowing the cheerleaders to continue displaying religious banners, but question if the speech is private or it comes from the government.

The attorney representing Kountze ISD says the district wants clarification of the law.

Today, Attorney David Starnes, who represents the cheerleaders sites the case out of New York State that says prayer is allowed before government meetings as long as it's not led by government officials.

He says the case almost mirrors the cheerleader's case because it proves that the cheerleader's religious messages were crafted by them, not a
school administrator.

Attorney Tom Brandt who represents the district told KFDM News:

"The Supreme Courts recent decision in Town of Greece, New York v. Galloway is encouraging.  Although the holding of the case involves legislative prayer and is not directly related to the issue of run-through banners,  it nevertheless seems to provide support for the position the Kountze ISD has taken in the case.  Kountze ISD has consistently maintained that it wants to obey the law and has asked the court for clarification of the law. Kountze ISD has taken the position that, under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, it ought to be allowed to allow religious messages on the run-through banners.  Kountze ISD has argued that allowing the religious messages on the run-through banner should not be considered a violation
of the Establishment Clause."

The American Civil Union also responded, Rebecca L. Robertson, legal and policy director said:

Nothing in the Greece decision addresses school-sponsored religious speech, which is what is at issue in the Kountze case. In fact, the Court made it clear that there is a line that can be crossed and went out of its way to distinguish the schools context, where protections against government-sponsored religion are strongest. Being subjected to school-sponsored evangelizing as a condition of participating in school activities crosses the line because it sends a message to students and families of minority faiths and non-believers that they are second-class citizens.

 

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