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Jesus rules: Judge allows religious football signs to continue at Texas high school

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A judge ruled in favor of the Kountze High School cheerleaders on Thursday, allowing the religious signs to continue to be displayed.  David Ryan/Associated Press
Kountze High School banner
Kountze High School cheerleaders display a sign before the Lions take the field in Hardin County.  ffrf.org
Kountze High School banner
Kountze High School banner

When the Kountze Lions take the field against the Newton Eagles on Friday, they'll follow the same routine they have all football season. High school players will run through a hand-painted sign displaying a Bible verse. It may look like business as usual, but this new tradition in East Texas has sent out shockwaves across the country

A Hardin County court ruling on Thursday ended a month of legal maneuvering to halt the religious signs. The Associated Press reports that Judge Steven Thomas said the signs bearing Bible verses appear to be protected under freedom of speech. The signs will be allowed to continue pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by the cheerleaders and their parents against Kountze ISD.

Gov. Rick Perry threw his support behind the Kountze cheerleaders, saying "We owe it to people of all religions to protect expressions of faith."

A Sept. 17 complaint about the signs from the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison, Wisc., set off a chain of events that led to the issue making its way to through the Hardin County court system.

When Kountze ISD superintendent Kevin Weldon ordered the cheerleaders to stop making the signs, parents brought a suit against the school district. The Liberty Institute in Plano has defended the cheerleaders' choice as a matter of religious freedom. The signs were allowed to continue up until this point through a temporary court order. 

The Lions' new tradition has occurred side-by-side with an unprecedented 5-1 record. Kountze has not made it to the playoffs in 39 years. 

On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Perry threw his support behind the Kountze cheerleaders, saying "We owe it to people of all religions to protect expressions of faith." 

Attorney General Greg Abbott has also gotten involved in the case. He calls the signs "perfectly constitutional" and vows "to defend the cheerleaders' right to exercise their personal religious beliefs."

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