In the space below, we explore some very interesting and complex First Amendment issues that are implicated in a recent lawsuit in Texas. The suit was brought by a group of public high school (Kuntze High School) cheerleaders against the school district that told them to stop displaying religious-themed banners bearing bible verses and proclaiming things like “If G-d is for us, Who Can Be Against Us?” at football games. The district barred the religious banners, through which the football players had run as they came onto the field, after complaints by The Freedom From Religion Foundation that the practice of displaying such banners at football games of a public high school violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
The cheerleaders who filed suit seeking to continue the practice claim not only that the Establishment Clause does not forbid what they are doing, but also that that they have a First Amendment right themselves, under the Free Speech Clause, to continue to display the banners. The case is set for trial next year, but in the meantime, a Texas state court judge last month granted preliminary relief in favor of the cheerleaders, directing the school district to permit the cheerleaders to display the banners, because of his view that the cheerleaders will likely prevail on their claims when the case is fully resolved. As we explain below, we think—in light of the facts that are alleged by the cheerleaders in their Complaint—that under existing Supreme Court case law, both the Establishment Clause and the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment cut against the cheerleaders in this case. (We should make clear that although some of the current Justices might disagree with the case law currently on the books, we analyze the cheerleaders’ dispute under current doctrine that is binding on lower courts and litigants.) Please continue @: