High school football games and prayer simply don’t mix — at least that’s what one prominent atheist group is saying.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is taking Alabama’s Lauderdale County school district to task after accusing officials of allowing prayers during Brooks High School football games.
The prayers, which invoke Jesus’ name (obviously a common element among Christians), are being called a First Amendment violation. At particular issue is the fact that they are said over a loudspeaker, making them audible to anyone attending the games.
According to the Times Daily newspaper, the complaint stems from a single source in the community — a man named Jeremy Green.
In an e-mail to the newspaper, Green, who is a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Humanists of the Shoals, and American Atheists, said that he is taking a stand in support of the “separation of church and state” and that he was seeking to protect the rights of those who do not embrace religion. In the complaint, he wrote:
“It is illegal for any public school to organize, sponsor or lead prayer at public athletic events. The Supreme Court of the United States of America has continually made rulings which strike down this practice as illegal.
Student or faculty-led prayer at high school athletic events could be confusing for impressionable children who are raised in nonreligious or non-Christian homes and see the faculty member or student who is leading the prayer as a school sponsored authority figure.”
According to superintendent Bill Valentine, to his knowledge, this is apparently the first time that such an objection against the prayers has been made. But for the FFRF, voiced frustrations against faith in the public square are common. The group has attacked everything from crosses on water towers to tax benefits for ministers.
“We’ve referred that complaint to our attorney and we are in the process of reviewing it,” Valentine said.
So far, the school hasn’t made any decisions about how to handle prayer at school athletic events. Citizens have, thus far, responded with support for the prayers, Valentine says.
The community, which is actively religious on the whole, seems to understand the predicament that officials face, he explains.
David McKelvey, the pastor at the nearby First Baptist Church, says, “It’s very sad. I would think that any other prayer from another religion would not receive this kind of negativity.”
McKelvey, though, isn’t surprised by the developments, as he believes that Christianity is under attack. “It’s going on all over the place. You just hate for it to be coming to your doorstep,” he says.
FFRF has already been successful in stripping prayer from another Alabama high school. In yet another instance back in September, high school coaches found themselves in hot water after bowing their heads in prayer.
(H/T: Fox News)