Despite Overwhelming Support, Kountze School Board Delays Banner Vote
IN THE SCHOOL
Tuesday night, Liberty Institute General Counsel Jeff Mateer spoke at a special meeting of the Kountze School Board, where they considered the current ban on religious messages on run-through banners at school football games.
Prior to the meeting, the Board accepted written statements from the public and received a written statement from Liberty Institute. Read the statement here.
Approximately 60 members of the community attended the two-hour meeting, which began with the Board immediately going into executive session with the school district’s attorneys. After 20 minutes, the Board returned and began taking public comments. Seventeen people spoke, including Mateer – 16 of those were in favor of lifting the current ban; only one person spoke in opposition to the cheerleaders’ free speech rights.
After public comments, the Board went back into executive session with its attorneys, and then came back and accepted a motion to extend the deadline for written statements an additional 10 days, after which they said they will consider a new written policy on the banners.
Mateer said he was disappointed by the delay.
“Despite receiving overwhelming input from the community supporting the cheerleaders, the School Board simply kicked the can down the road instead of immediately lifting the unlawful ban on the cheerleaders' private free speech,” he said. “Our lawsuit will continue as we prepare for the June trial.”
The case began last fall when the Kountze High School cheerleaders were banned from writing Bible verses on the run-through banners at school football games. The Kountze superintendent made the hasty decision to ban the signs after the district received a threatening demand letter from the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Liberty Institute quickly stepped in to represent the cheerleaders. With volunteer attorney David Starnes, Liberty Institute obtained a temporary injunction, allowing the student-made banners to continue for the remainder of the season. A full trial is set for June 2013.
Organizations and school districts across the country are paying close attention to this important case, which could dramatically impact the future of students’ religious freedom…not just in Kountze, but in schools throughout the U.S. Please continue to pray for these brave, young cheerleaders who have made the bold decision to stand for their First Amendment rights, and pray for our attorneys as they work to prepare for this important trial.
Also, please continue to give generously. Your financial support has never been more crucial as we are fighting some of the most intense attacks on religious freedom we have ever seen.
About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit www.LibertyInstitute.org.