Judge: Religious signs OK at Kountze High School football games


by KHOU.com staff & Kevin Reece / KHOU 11 News


Posted on September 21, 2012 at 8:28 AM

KOUNTZE, Texas—Students in the tiny Texas town of Kountze won a legal victory Thursday when a judge said they could continue to use religious signs at football games – at least for now.

State District Judge Steven Thomas granted a temporary restraining order preventing the Kountze ISD from imposing a ban on the religious signs at games and other school-sponsored events.

Attorney David Starnes filed court papers on behalf of Kountze ISD cheerleaders who believe they have the right to put Bible verses on run-through signs at football games.

The signs “weren’t made on school time, weren’t made using school funds and were done without any involvement of the school administration,” Starnes told KFDM in Beaumont.

But someone mailed a complaint to the Kountze ISD superintendent. Kevin Weldon said he immediately contacted legal counsel and the Texas Association of School Boards, which advised him the practice should end immediately.

That decision didn’t sit well with folks in Kountze where faith and football are as intertwined as much as anywhere else in Texas. They decided to fight back.

Religious signs and banners filled the stands at the Kountze Middle School football game against Silsbee on Thursday evening.

Many people in attendance applauded the judge’s decision to grant the temporary restraining order.

“I’m sorry for people who might be offended,” said Kori Bumstead, a middle school cheerleader.  “But our boys are happy and we’re just trying to win our games.”

Others in the stands agreed. 

“I believe their intentions were simply to support their team,” said one woman whose son plays for the Kountze Middle School Lions.

But some people at the game thought the judge did the wrong thing.

“I don’t go against showing your religion,” said Gabriel Haga, a 14-year-old middle school student.   “But I do go against people trying to force other people into religion.”

Students and parents created a Facebook group page called “Support Kountze Kids Faith.” Within 24 hours, more than 30,000 people signed up to join the site. The population of Kountze is only 2,115.

Judge Thomas set a temporary injunction hearing for October 4.