Cheerleaders with Bible verses set off a debate
The hand-painted red banner created by high school cheerleaders here for Friday night’s football game against Woodville was finished days ago. It contains a passage from the Bible — Hebrews 12:1 — that reads: “And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
That banner, and other religious-themed signs made by the high school and middle school cheerleading squads in recent weeks, have embroiled this East Texas town in a heated debate over God, football and cheerleaders’ rights.
School district officials ordered the cheerleaders to stop putting Bible verses on the banners, because they believed doing so violated the law on religious expression at public school events. In response, a group of 15 cheerleaders and their parents sued the Kountze Independent School District and its superintendent, Kevin Weldon, claiming that prohibiting the students from writing Christian banner messages violated their religious liberties and free-speech rights.
On Thursday afternoon, the two sides met in a courtroom on the second floor of the Hardin County Courthouse. It had all the trappings of a high-profile courtroom drama: Lawyers from both sides haggled over the Texas Constitution and the cheerleaders’ own constitution, a police officer with an assault rifle and binoculars was stationed on the roof, reporters filled the jury box, and one witness — Kieara Moffett, an 11th grade cheerleader — teared up on the stand during cross-examination.
The superintendent’s decision has outraged many students and their parents, and has brought national attention upon a small town about two hours outside Houston. The cheerleaders’ supporters have put up lawn signs and started a Facebook page called Support Kountze Kids Faith that, with nearly 50,000 members, far exceeds the town’s population of 2,100. [More]
New York Times