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Fighting for the Original Intent of the First Amendment

Yesterday, lovers of liberty won a great victory in Texas, and many will never even realize it. That’s because, rather often, culture-shaping events occur in unlikely and relatively unheard of places. They’re missed because most Americans expect political and cultural events to emanate from Washington, DC, or state capitols across the country, not from small towns and “fly-over” country. Nevertheless, events of great impact, both good and bad, often occur in obscurity. This is certainly the case with regard to a resounding judicial victory for religious liberty in Kountze, Texas yesterday.

Cheerleaders at Kountze High School regularly include Scripture verses and expressions of faith on the banners they hold up at the beginning of football games. These banners are used to welcome the football team onto the field at the beginning of Friday night games, and often include references like Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” To most Americans, these expressions of faith are part of the great tradition of religious freedom in our country. To a few activists, they are an unwelcome gesture they intend to stamp-out through the trampling of individual rights guaranteed under our Constitution. That’s exactly what secular-progressives activists attempted to do in Texas earlier this year.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation decided to stir the pot, while persecuting high school girls who were simply exercising their Constitutional rights. Claiming that the girls’ use of Scripture on banners displayed at a public high school violated the “separation of church and state,” the Freedom from Religion Foundation threatened legal action against the school district if such expressions of faith were not ceased immediately. The principal at the school buckled, and told the cheerleaders that they must not include Scripture verses or references to God in general, on their banners at Friday night football games. Unlike their principal, the girls and their families decided to fight back.

With the help of an organization known as the Liberty Institute, located in Plano, Texas, the girls and their families argued that such a cease and desist order was unconstitutional and outright censorship by the school district. The case was heard by Hardin County District Judge Steve Thomas, an appointee of Texas Governor Rick Perry, who ordered that the cheerleaders be allowed to exercise “their constitutional and statutory rights at all football games and other sporting events.” This after the Texas Attorney General, Greg Abbott, came to the girls’ defense in the name of protecting religious liberty and the freedom of expression guaranteed under the First Amendment.

While some may see a victory over Bible verses on banners as trivial, I see this as a monumental decision in favor of the original intent of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The First Amendment is there to ensure that folks have the right to express their faith in public, but liberal activists have sought to turn this intent on its head, thus using the Amendment that makes religious liberty absolute in America to make it obsolete and unwelcome. The ruling by Judge Thomas, and the arguments made by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott are a great step forward for Americans who believe that faith ought to be welcome in the public arena.

The First Amendment is there to protect people of faith from the government, not government from people of faith. I thank the good people of Kountze, Texas, for reminding all Americans of this truth.

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