IN THE SCHOOL
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Liberty Institute, and Attorney David Starnes File Brief Opposing KISD’s Appeal of Kountze Cheerleaders’ Victory Allowing Bible Messages on Banners
KOUNTZE, TX, October 28, 2013—Today, Lead Appellate Counsel Jim Ho of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Liberty Institute, and Attorney David Starnes, on behalf of a group of Kountze High School and Middle School cheerleaders, filed a brief in the Court of Appeals for the Ninth
Judicial District, Beaumont, Texas, to oppose Kountze ISD’s appeal of the cheerleaders’ victory in district court permitting them to display run-through banners with Bible messages at Kountze ISD sporting events. For more than a year, the cheerleaders and Kountze ISD have been embroiled in heated litigation over the students’ free speech and religious liberty rights that drew national attention to the small, closely knit community.
James C. Ho of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP, Liberty Institute, and David Starnes represent the Kountze cheerleaders and their parents.
View the appellate brief here.
“The message on the banners is plainly the private speech of the cheerleaders, not the government school. No court has ever held that a student speaking on a message of his or her own choice is a government speaker. If Kountze ISD prevails in its appeal, the religious messages on the banners will be banned under federal law. We owe it to the cheerleaders and the community to make sure the Court gets it right and rejects Kountze ISD’s appeal,” said Hiram Sasser, Director of Litigation for Liberty Institute.
In an effort to share positive messages with players and fans, high school and middle school cheerleaders in Kountze, TX, painted Bible verses on their student-made run-through banners at school football games. After receiving a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Kountze ISD superintendent banned the religious messages. Then in September 2012, Beaumont attorney David Starnes and Liberty Institute filed a lawsuit, Matthews v. Kountze Independent School District, on behalf of Kountze ISD cheerleaders and their parents. In May 2013, Hardin County Judge Steven Thomas granted an order permitting the Kountze Cheerleaders to continue displaying run-through banners with Bible messages at Kountze ISD sporting events. Kountze ISD is appealing that order.
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, in the military, 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.