Updated 10/18/2012 04:24 PM
Abbott applauds ruling in cheerleader bible verse case
Updated to add a statement from Gov. Rick Perry
Cheerleaders in East Texas can continue to carry their bible-verse banners on the football field, for now. A judge ruled today that a school district decision banning the cheerleaders from quoting the bible violates their rights to free speech. He issued a temporary restraining order, while the lawsuit goes to trial.
The banners carried quotes with sayings like "I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me." The controversy gained national attention when an atheist group complained that Kountze High School was promoting Christianity.
Governor Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott had both supported the cheerleaders, and Abbott announced Wednesday that he would intervene in the lawsuit. He argued that since the cheerleaders paid for and made the banners themselves, they qualified as free speech.
Abbott released this statement, following today's ruling:
Today’s decision is an important victory for the cheerleaders’ freedom of religion. The Constitution has never demanded that students check their religious beliefs at the schoolhouse door. Students' ability to express their religious views adds to the diversity of thought that has made this country so strong. Texas law supports students' right to freely express their religious beliefs without discrimination. We will not allow groups or individuals to wage a war on religion by trying to intimidate students into embracing a secular mindset.
Governor Perry released this statement:
“Today’s ruling is a victory for all who cherish our inalienable right to freedom of speech and religious expression. 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.
“I commend Attorney General Abbott for intervening in their case and will continue working with him and other state leaders to protect people of all religious backgrounds and ensure all Texans have the right to voice their opinions and worship as they choose.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.