The ACLU of Texas filed an amicus brief in the high-profile case over whether the Kountze Independent School District cheerleaders can display religious-themed banners at school football games.
The cheerleaders persuaded the trial court to rule that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment does not preclude the school from sponsoring religious messages at school events. This holding is contrary to Santa Fe v. Doe, in which the U.S. Supreme Court said schools cannot allow events like football games to be co-opted for religious purposes, even if a majority of students want it that way. As the Supreme Court pointed out in Santa Fe, when schools show this kind of preference for one religious viewpoint, it sends the messages to adherents of other faiths that they are outsiders.
We weighed in to advise the appeals court of the correct constitutional standard. With our colleagues at the ACLU’s Project on Religion & Belief, we represent a broad coalition of interfaith and advocacy groups who joined us on the brief. The court of appeals reversed the lower court on the grounds that challenged policy had been revised, mooting the students’ claims. The court did not reach the constitutional issue. The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Texas Supreme Court, were we once again weighed in the correct constitutional standard. The Supreme Court ruled that the students should be permitted to go forward with their claims against the district.