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ADL to Texas Supreme Court: Religious Run-Through Banners at Kountze ISD Football Games Are Unconstitutional

  • July 23, 2015

Houston TX, July 23, 2015 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today joined an amicus (friend- of-the-court) brief to the Texas Supreme Court Case which asserts that displays of large run-through banners bearing biblical verses and religious symbols at Kountze ISD high-school football games are unconstitutional.

Jodi Bernstein, Senior Associate Regional Director, issued the following statement:

These banners cross the critical line between private and government-sponsored religious speech.  Our nation’s public schools students have the right to engage in private and voluntary religious
activity in school, but school-sponsored religious messages or activities like these banners violate the First Amendment.

Although the Kountze ISD Cheerleading squad – a school-sponsored activity – physically made the religious banners, they were created at the behest of school officials and their content was
approved by these officials.The district also gave the squad special football-field access to display the banners in order for football team members to run through them right before the beginning of
games.  No other students have that privilege.

These banners clearly run afoul of longstanding U.S. Supreme Court rulings barring school-sponsored religious speech.  Although many in the Kountze community may approve of these banners,
individual First Amendment rights are not subject to a popularity contest.  Our public schools are for all children regardless of their faith.  The Constitution guarantees that students should not
have to choose between participating in important school activities or being subjected to unwanted or hurtful religious messages.

The brief in the case entitled – Kountze Independent School District v. Matthews – specifically argues that the school-sponsored banners violate the Establishment Clause to the First Amendment because they constitute government advancement, endorsement and coercion of religion.  A coalition of faith-based and civil rights groups joined the amicus brief.

For more information or to set up an interview, call Dena Marks at 713-627-3490, ext. 234, or on her cell at 832-567-8843.