Yet another public school has halted prayers before football games after receiving a threatening letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), an atheist activist non-profit. Earlier this week, TheBlaze told you about the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and its decision to ban prayers. Now, Haralson County High School in Tallapoosa, Georgia, is also ceasing its broadcast of prayers before football games.
After 50 years of traditional invocations being uttered before Rebels games, the loudspeaker has now been silenced. The situation commenced when the school, back in September 2011, received a letter from FFRF staff council Stephanie A. Schmitt. In it, she told Haralson County Schools Superintendent Brett Stanton that the district was in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
"First and foremost, it is illegal for a public school to organize, sponsor and lead prayers at public high school athletic events," Schmitt's letter charged.
As was the case with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the district will replace the prayer with a moment of silence, something that Stanton agrees is constitutionally prudent.
"We are going to follow the guidelines of the Constitution," the superintendent said. "I think it is a huge adjustment for this community, something they are having to adapt to. And something that has really brought them together."
Interestingly, the case isn't necessarily closed. While the district won't allow prayers to be uttered from the loudspeaker, community members have taken matters into their own hands. Rather than being silent, game attendees and players decided to vocally pray during the designated moment of silence. According to CBS News, they wanted to show that, while they can't have a loudspeaker broadcast their prayers, they don't plan to stop publicly connecting with their Lord.
"I am upset because I think our God-given rights are being taken away as well," said Melinda Holden, a local. "We are a God-believing community and we have our rights too. This is needed in our community. If you don't want to support the prayer then allow us to have our say."
Typically, when it comes to those issuing church-state complaints with the FFRF, they tend to hide their identities to avoid scrutiny and anger. In this case, the parents, Frank and Sarak Mcintire, whose son plays on the football team, have spoken out. While they never intended the situation "to get this far," they have expressed their discontent and uncomfortableness with the prayers being uttered.
Interestingly, the family claims that they are not atheists, but that they simply want the school to stop violating the constitution.
"We care about the community, we care about this team and one of the things I am glad to see a lot of people here tonight," Frank explained. "Where have they been the past six years? They come out here for this one issue, they are not out here supporting the football team, they are supporting the prayer, that's a big difference, we are out here every Friday night supporting this team."
For now, the community, though, seems adamant about continuing its public prayer during the moment of silence. In fact, the game had a sell-out crowd comprised of 3,000 community members.