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Religious banner case may head to Texas Supreme Court
KOUNTZE- by Haley Bull
Attorneys representing the Kountze cheerleaders in a legal battle over religious banners tell KFDM News they are appealing the case to the Texas Supreme Court. An appeals court judge recently ruled the cheerleaders could display the run-through banners at football games with religious messages, but their attorney calls it a "half-victory."
"It's important to stand up for what you believe in no matter what it is," senior cheerleader Kieara Moffett said.
The cheerleaders have defended the religious messages on the banners since 2012.
"We knew that putting the scripture on the signs was what we were supposed to do," senior cheerleader Rebekah Richardson said.
The bible verses under the Friday night lights sparked a courtroom battle between the cheerleaders and the school district graduating seniors are getting ready to leave behind.
"I just think of how far we've all come, everyone who was on the team," Richardson said.
The varsity squad is changing with girls like incoming freshman Alexis Orsot.
"I know it will be more harder than middle school, but you just have to like let God have way," Orsot said.
An appeals court ruled Orsot and her teammates will once again be allowed to display the banners this fall.
"I'm thankful that we're allowed to have the banners," Richardson said.
"They can still take it back and say no you can't, like you can't do it, so that's kind of not cool," Moffett said.
The most recent ruling didn't distinguish between private and government speech, which is why the cheerleader's attorney, David Starnes, said the legal battle may not be over.
"It didn't finalize the big question in the case. It made a final ruling, but it didn't answer what we think is a fundamental issue in the case and so that'll be left to the Texas Supreme Court to decide," Starnes said.
Several groups have criticized the run-through banners, including the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The group issued this statement on the matter:
"The Court of Appeals was correct. As the Freedom From Religion Foundation said last year, the court was without jurisdiction to rule on the matter. Public school districts and religious organizations cannot operate in concert to get courts to issue advisory opinions on speech promoting religion. This case serves to show the divisiveness when public schools promote religious messages. Run-through banners on the playing field containing biblical quotes signal unconstitutional school endorsement of Christianity. Ultimately, we believe that students who are non-Christian have a right to challenge them in court and will prevail."While Starnes gears up for another round of legal battles, the senior girls are reflecting.
"I'll be at every game rooting them on from the sidelines," Moffett said.
What message do the seniors want to leave for their younger teammates?
"I think you just have to remember what you've been taught and what you believe and stick to that," Richardson said.
They're beliefs and messages these girls have expressed through banners, that for now, will live to see another day and another football season.