State intervenes to defend TX law, support Kountze cheerleaders - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee


State intervenes to defend TX law, support Kountze cheerleaders

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HARDIN COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - The Kountze ISD cheerleaders have made national headlines after displaying signs at a football game carrying religious messages.

The cheerleaders use the hand-painted banners as an inspiration for their football team.

Kountze ISD ordered the girls to quit using the banners at the school's football games, and the students and their parents' filed suit in state court.

Now, State of Texas officials are stepping in, in defense of the cheerleaders and the Texas Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act, in the court case filed in Hardin County.

The State of Texas says the court filing questioned the constitutionality of state laws put in place by the Texas legislature.

In documents filed in Hardin County, the office of the Attorney General of Texas explained that the Texas Religious Viewpoint Anti-Discrimination Act requires schools districts to treat a student's voluntary expression of religious views in the same manner that a school district treats the same expression.

According to Attorney General Gregg Abbott, the Act authorizes students to express themselves both as individuals or in groups, in the same manner as students involved in secular or not-curricular activities.

The AG's office continues that neither the Texas Religious Viewpoint Anti-Descrimination Act nor the United State Constitution allows the government to ban religious references from "the public square."

In turn, the AG's office is urging the court to dismiss Kountze ISD's argument that the Act, or the religious messages the cheerleaders displayed, is in fact a violation if the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Texas AG Abbott, released the following statement on Wednesday, after the state intervened in the case against Kountze ISD:

After receiving a menacing letter from an organization with a reputation for bullying school districts, the Kountze ISD improperly prohibited high school cheerleaders from including religious messages on their game day banners. Those banners, which the cheerleaders independently produce on their own time with privately funded supplies, are perfectly constitutional. The State of Texas intervened in this case to defend the cheerleaders' right to exercise their personal religious beliefs – and to defend the constitutionality of a state law that protects religious liberties for all Texans.

Governor Rick Perry says, "As government leaders, we owe it to people of all religions to protect expressions of faith, to ensure everyone has the right to voice their opinions and worship as they see fit."

He continued, "During the upcoming session, we'll continue to find ways to preserve religious expression and explore ways to protect people of faith from this ongoing onslaught."

House Bill 3678, the Religious Viewpoint Anti-Discrimination Act was signed into Texas law by Governor Perry in 2007 to reiterate a student's right to religious expression, and protect students' religious expression from teachers and administrators.

The law is aligned with the U.S. Department of Education's Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, making it clear that students may pray or study religious materials during non-instructional times. The law also allows students to express religious beliefs in homework and assignments and be judged by ordinary academic standards. Additionally, the law clarifies that religious groups have the same access to school facilities as other non-curricular groups.

Related Stories:

Texas cheerleaders told no Bible verses on signs

Judge: TX cheerleaders can put Bible verses on signs for now

Judge: TX cheerleaders can use bible banners, for now

TX Attorney General writes letter in support of Kountze cheerleaders

Copyright 2012 KLTV. All rights reserved. Information from the Office of the Attorney General of Texas and the Texas Governor's Office contributed to this report.

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