Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton continue to fight for religious freedom and rights of expression for citizens and students.
In October 2012, Abbott defended Kountze high school cheerleaders by taking head-on the lawsuit filed against them for including religious messages on their football game banners. Friday, Paxton filed an amicus brief with the Texas Supreme Court in Matthews v. Kountze Independent School District, supporting the constitutional rights of Texas’ public schoolchildren to express their own messages at school and school-related events.
“The Kountze cheerleaders’ case involves personal expressions of faith and an ill-advised school district change of policy that has mislabeled their expressions of faith as ‘government speech,’” Attorney General Paxton said. “Let’s not forget that our country was founded on the very concept of religious freedom.”
“When our fundamental rights are threatened, we have an obligation to defend them,” Paxton continued. “And I stand with the students and parents at Kountze High School who are committed to move forward in this important fight.”
When Kountze High School cheerleaders decided to print Bible verses on posters and banners for their football team to run through during games in 2012, The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a complaint.
Kountze ISD barred students from using the signs so parents filed a lawsuit against the school district.
“KISD changed its policy to allow the banners, but in doing so claimed, for the first time, that the banners actually convey the school’s speech and not the cheerleaders’ personal expressions of faith,” the Office of Attorney General issued a statement. “KISD then asked an appeals court to dismiss the case. The Ninth Court of Appeals, in Beaumont, dismissed the case, effectively allowing KISD to control the speech on banners as “school speech” and to disassociate the cheerleaders from their personal expressions of faith. The ruling is now before the Texas Supreme Court.”
Since he took office in January, Paxton took over the reins of Abbott’s position to “consistently and fervently” defended religious liberty. On August 24, Paxton filed an amicus brief on behalf of 20 states with the U.S. Supreme Court in Little Sisters v. Burwell, supporting the religious nonprofit’s right to exercise sincerely-held religious beliefs.
On August 10, the he filed another amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in Houston Baptist University v. Burwell in support of the petitioners’ fight against Obamacare’s contraception mandate based on its religious objections.
Other Texas religious liberties cases included:
- In 2011, Abbott’s office submitted a legal brief asking a federal appeals court to uphold Medina Valley High School graduates’ constitutional rights to freely express their religious beliefs during graduation ceremonies.
- In January 2009, after Abbott submitted a legal brief joined by all 50 state attorneys general, a federal judge cleared the way for President Barack Obama to include references to religion during his Presidential Inauguration
- In 2007, Attorney General Abbott defeated a lawsuit that attempted to remove the words “under God” from the Texas Pledge of Allegiance.
- In 2005, Attorney General Abbott appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court and defended the State’s Ten Commandments monument, which stands on the Texas Capitol grounds. In that case, Van Orden v. Perry, the plaintiff sought to remove the Ten Commandments monument from the Capitol grounds, but Attorney General Abbott successfully argued that the monument was entirely constitutional.
- On August 10, Paxton filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in Houston Baptist University v. Burwell in support of the petitioners’ fight against Obamacare’s contraception mandate, which violates their religious beliefs.
The State of Texas filed the August 24th’s brief on behalf of Texas, Ohio, Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.