Kountze cheerleaders get 14-day extension of temporary restraining order
Cheerleaders in Kountze who want the right to continue to display signs with scriptures, and opponents who say this crosses the bounds between church and state, have a judge's decision on the matter, for now.
356th District Court Judge Steve Thomas Thursday denied the cheerleaders a temporary injunction, but instead granted a 14-day extension of a temporary restraining order.
The controversy began when the cheerleading squad at Kountze High School was told it had to stop displaying the banners because the district received a complaint. The complaint was lodged by Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, who said it was acting on behalf of someone who wished to remain anonymous.
Acting on legal advice, school superintendent Kevin Weldon told the cheerleaders the banners had to go.
Some of the cheerleaders hired attorney David Starnes who agreed to help them fight a legal battle to keep the signs. Starnes maintains the girls were simply exercising their freedom of speech.
Starnes says the girls came up with the idea on their own, and no one from the district headed up the effort.
A judge granted some of the cheerleaders a temporary restraining order that gave them a 2-week approval to display the signs until both sides could meet in court.
Under the Friday night lights they sport black and red uniforms but Thursday, Kountze Cheerleaders were dressed for business.
After being in court for more than six hours their signs of support for Kountze football players will continue for now.
"I think I might cry again, maybe. But I think it will be a happy moment," Kountze Cheerleader Kieara Moffett said.
Moffat testified Thursday along with cheer mate Macy Matthews and cheer sponsor Beth Richardson.
Tom Brandt representing Kountze I.S.D. questioned the sponsor about the cheer constitution which deems her a district employee who instructs the girls.
But the sponsor and the girls testified saying they loosely follow the cheer constitution allowing the cheerleaders instead to make decisions.
"We're not always going to have parents behind us. In 2 years they're not going to hold our hands and tell us what to do. I feel it's necessary we learn to stand on our own," Moffett said.
Superintendent Weldon's testimony may have been a game changer in the girls fight.
"He admitted that they discriminated against the girls religious expression. He admitted they censored their speech. All of which helps our case," Attorney David Starnes said.
"I'll tell you this I'm a Christian, I was in a rock and a hard spot," Superintendent Weldon said to a group of reporters Thursday.
Superintendent Weldon told us he respects the cheerleaders and admitted in court getting bad legal advice when the controversy began in September.
"I commend them for their boldness and conviction but as a school district we will continue to follow the law," he said.
While not technically a win, Thursday's Temporary Restraining Order Extension is being considered a step in the right direction for the cheerleaders.
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