A Texas judge has ruled on the case of the Texas cheerleaders who were using banners with Christian Bible verses on them at football games at their public high school. Lawyers for the cheerleaders argued that the messages on the banners were examples of private religious speech: that the cheerleaders made them off campus and that the banners reflected their private religious beliefs. In other words, the argument goes, banning the cheerleaders’ signs amounts to an infringement on their religious freedom. The argument against the signs is that when cheerleaders are wearing their school uniforms, on school property, at school games, they are representatives of the school, no longer merely private citizens. At publicly-funded high schools, representatives should not engage in religious speech, especially religious speech that privileges one religion over another. For this reason, the superintendent of the school district had banned cheerleaders’ use of the signs.
The judge came down on the side of the cheerleaders, temporarily prohibiting the district from banning the signs and setting a trial date for next June. For the rest of this school year, the cheerleaders can use their signs at school sporting events, displaying verses from the Christian Bible. This decision raises several questions that might shed some light on whether the students’ actions are really private or whether they are, in fact, public. How would Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, or atheist players and their families feel at games where these banners are used? Do the signs make them feel less welcome at the school and its sporting events, as less valued members of the community that—by law—is also theirs? What if cheerleaders or players at another school in the district made and displayed banners with quotes from the Quran? Would that also be seen as acceptable?