The Bible Bandwagon's Getting Crowded: Rick Perry, Greg Abbott Grab a Piece of the Kountze Limelight (UPDATE: God Wins, for Now)
By Your side will be Governor Rick Perry and state Attorney General Greg Abbott, both of whom have somehow decided to intervene in a red-meat, hot-button issue sure to please their supporters in the Tea Party. (Oh, and to have Your back, too, of course.)
(It' s up to You to decide how to thank them, but -- hint, hint -- Perry's Aggies play LSU Saturday. We're just saying.)
Kountze has found itself in court because its cheerleaders like to wave banners featuring Bible verses at football games. ("I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me," for instance.)
Groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation oppose the practice and have chosen to stir the pot by going to court, and an important hearing is set for tomorrow.
Abbott has filed a formal intervention in the suit.
He's also issued a statement!
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.
Perry also has issued a statement: "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 said. "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."
A state judge in Hardin County will consider tomorrow whether to extend a stay allowing the banners to be displayed while all this plays out in court.
In response Abbott said:
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.
And Perry's take:
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.