Judge rules school district cannot ban Kountze cheerleader's ban - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

Judge rules school district cannot ban Kountze cheerleader's banners

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KOUNTZE -

A Hardin County district judge has ruled in favor of a group of Kountze Cheerleaders who want to continue displaying religious banners at football games.

356th District Judge Steve Thomas Wednesday ruled that the Kountze Independent School District cannot prevent the displays.

The controversy began when the cheerleading squad at Kountze High School was ordered by the superintendent to stop displaying the banners.  The order came after the district received a letter on September 17, 2012 sent by the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation.  The letter said the group was acting on behalf of someone who wished to remain anonymous.

The letter argues that the cheerleaders represent the school and therefore their speech has the same restrictions as the school's speech.

"Cheerleading for the school is undeniably a school-sponsored activity and the banners displayed by the cheerleaders take place during a school-sponsored event," says a statement from the foundation.

Acting on legal advice, school Superintendent Kevin Weldon told the cheerleaders the banners had to go.

Some of the cheerleaders, with help from the Plano, Texas-based Liberty Institute, filed a lawsuit (Coti Matthews on behalf of her minor child, Macy Matthews, et al., v. Kountze Independent School District) against the school district after the ban went into place, saying since they make the banners on their free time and pay for the supplies, they are merely exercising their freedom of speech.

This is a developing story.  Check back for updates

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