The American Civil Liberties Union says it joined the Kountze ISD school board in a fight against the varsity cheerleaders and its banners with biblical verses.
The ACLU filed an amicus brief with the Texas Court of Appeals in Beaumont on Thursday afternoon.
The ACLU says a broad coalition of religious groups argue in the brief that was filed, such public school promotion of religious messages is unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Lead attorney David Starnes, who represents the cheerleaders in the case, issued a statement on Thursday after the brief was filed.
“We understand that the Kountze School Board and their ACLU allies are fighting against us with everything they have,” Starnes said in a letter. “But we believe the law and the facts are on our side, and we will prevail.”
Kountze ISD Superintendent Reese Briggs said that neither he, the school board or the district’s legal team were aware that an amicus brief was being filed by ACLU.
“They didn’t file on behalf of the district,” Briggs said. “When we went to court in the summer, the judge ruled that we would not be in violation of the establishment clause.”
Briggs said the district continues to support the cheerleaders and have no intention of making changes from the ruling in favor of the cheerleaders.
According to Briggs, as of Friday morning, Starnes had not contacted the school, the school board or the school’s attorney, Tom Brandt.
“What Starnes is saying in his statement are false claims,” said Briggs. “What ACLU has done is unexpected but at the same time, expected.”
In May, 356th District Judge Steve Thomas ruled in favor of the cheerleaders after a 7-month battle that began a year ago.
Starnes teamed up with the Liberty Institute attorney’s in the fight after a mother of one of the cheerleaders moved forward with a lawsuit against Kountze ISD.
In October, Thomas ruled on a temporary injunction for the cheerleaders for the remainder of the football season to allow them to continue to display the signs.
Former Superintendent Kevin Weldon banned the banners in September 2012 after the Freedom From Religion group threatened the school district. Weldon resigned from the district and took another position at a different school district.