This is one of those legal instances where free speech trumps the "freedom from religion" that is argued consistently in these cases.
Cheerleaders at a Texas school wanted to put religious-themed sentiments on banners they would be using during football games. School officials barred the use of the banners and the cheerleaders went to court.
After issuing a temporary injunction allowing the practice, a judge has now ruled in favor of the cheerleaders, citing free speech as justification.
District Judge Steve Thomas granted an injunction requested by the Kountze High School cheerleaders allowing them to continue displaying religious-themed banners pending the outcome of a lawsuit, which is set to go to trial next June 24, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said. Thomas previously granted a temporary restraining order allowing the practice to continue.
School officials barred the cheerleaders from displaying banners with religious messages such as, "If God is for us, who can be against us," after the Freedom From Religion Foundation complained. The advocacy group says the messages violate the First Amendment clause barring the government - or a publicly funded school district, in this case - from establishing or endorsing a religion.
Gov. Rick Perry, who appointed Thomas, a fellow Republican, to the district court to fill a vacancy, issued a statement welcoming the ruling.
"Today's ruling is a victory for all who cherish our inalienable right to freedom of speech and religious expression," Perry said. "I am proud of the cheerleaders at Kountze ISD for standing firm in the knowledge of these endowed rights and their willingness to be an example in defending those rights, which a secular group has needlessly tried to take away."
Abbott, who filed court papers seeking to intervene in the lawsuit on behalf of the cheerleaders, also issued a statement commending the ruling.
"Students' ability to express their religious views adds to the diversity of thought that has made this country so strong," Abbott said.
Abbott argued that the Texas Education Code also states that schools must respect the rights of students to express their religious beliefs.
The establishment clause cannot be used to stifle individual free speech rights. This is self evident both in law and tradition. The Founders would have easily recognized the difference here and only those who would twist the establishment clause - "Freedom from Religion" - would disagree.
Chalk one up for common sense.