CORPUS CHRISTI – The Gonzales family from Mathis was in court earlier today asking Judge Nelva Ramos to consider an injunction that would allow Cesar and Diego Gonzales to participate in extracurricular activities.
According to a press release from religious organization Becket, it seems as if the family won a major victory in their quest to let their boys join extracurricular sports and clubs while keeping a strand of hair uncut and braided as a sign of faith.
In Gonzales v. Mathis Independent School District, brothers Cesar and Diego Gonzales have been barred for the past two years from playing on their school’s football team or participating in academic clubs because of a religious promise they have kept since birth.
Today’s federal court decision grants the family’s request for a religious accommodation allowing participation in extracurriculars while the case proceeds.
“After two years of needless bullying of students of faith, it’s now clear that the school district is breaking the law,” Becket Vice President and Executive Director Montserrat Alvarado said. “Mathis Independent School District should stop this foolish fight and do the right thing.”
Cesar and Diego Gonzales leave a small part of their hair uncut and braided, a religious promise known as a promesa they have kept since infancy.
Although the school’s dress code forbids male students from having hair past the collar, the school district granted an exemption to the boys from kindergarten through sixth grade, and they participated in school activities with no problem.
But when they entered seventh grade in 2017 at Mathis Middle School, Cesar and Diego Gonzales were told that their religious practice would no longer be accommodated. They are now freshmen at Mathis High School.
“It is unacceptable to keep children from doing what they love because of their religious beliefs,” Alvarado said. “Mathis ISD should follow the law and respect these students’ religious beliefs.”
The court invited the parties to submit additional evidence and briefing on Sept. 10 and said that it will issue a more “detailed order” soon.
The Gonzales family is represented by Texas attorney Frank Gonzales and Jamie Aycock, Kenneth Young, and Kelsee Foote of the international law firm Kirkland & Ellis.
Just after the hearing, Attorney Dennis Eichelbaum, who was representing MISD at the hearing, said, “Well, we’ll have to see how the judge rules. I know where the judge’s heart is, but I also know where the law is.”
More information will follow as it’s released.
Read next week’s edition of The News of San Patricio for the full story.