Texas Republican Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz filed a legal brief last week in support of high school cheerleaders who created banners with overtly Christian messages.
“Through the First Amendment, our Founding Fathers sought to ensure that all Americans would enjoy the freedom to express their religious beliefs,” Cornyn said in a statement. “I’m proud to fight for Texans to protect these important rights.”
“The First Amendment protects the religious liberty of every American,” Cruz added. “I’m proud to side with the cheerleaders standing up for free expression of religion and the Bill of Rights.”
The Texas cheerleaders had been painting Bible verses on giant paper banners, which the football players ran through at the beginning of the game. The school district tried to prohibit the religious banners after being contacted by the Freedom From Religion Foundation on behalf of a local resident.
But a judge later ruled the religious banners were constitutionally permissible.
The case, Kountze Independent School District v. Cotti Matthews, is now before the Ninth Court of Appeals in Texas.
In their joint amicus brief, Cornyn and Cruz argue that the cheerleaders’ banner is permissible under the First Amendment because it is not a school-sponsored message.
It is unconstitutional for the government — including public schools — to endorse or advance religion, but “the messages written on the banners and displayed at the football games were the cheerleaders’ words, not the school’s,” the senators wrote.
“The idea for the religious messages came from the cheerleaders, not the school. Although the messages were displayed at a school function and with the permission of school administrators, the messages were neither controlled nor coerced by the school. Thus the ‘government speech’ doctrine is inapplicable.”
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) has also intervened in the case to support the cheerleaders. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a brief in support of the school district.
Watch video of the cheerleaders, uploaded to YouTube in 2012, below:
[Image via Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons licensed]