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Atheist group's complaint leads to end of loudspeaker prayers before HS football games in Alabama county

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Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images

A complaint from the Freedom from Religion Foundation — a national atheist activist group — has led to the end of loudspeaker prayers at high school football games for one Alabama county, WBRC-TV reported.

What are the details?

The FFRF said it received complaints last fall about the issue and sent a letter to Jefferson County Schools saying prayers before games — specifically pointing out contests at Gardendale High School and Pinson Valley High School — are inappropriate and unconstitutional, the station said.

With that, the FFRF said the school district's attorney responded saying that after the superintendent met with principals, the district administration won't allow prayer at football games or any school-sponsored events, WBRC reported.

"I think some people treat it as, 'Oh, they just don’t want to hear prayer. They don’t like that Christians exist.' It has nothing to do with that. It truly is just that public schools are a neutral place. They should be neutral with regard to religion,” Chris Line, an FFRF staff attorney, told the station.

What did the school district have to say?

WBRC said it received the following statement regarding the issue from Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Walter B. Gonsoulin:

“A recent press release featured the Jefferson County Board’s response to a complaint about opening football games with a public prayer at two of its high schools. The complaint was administratively resolved at the school level, and not as a result of formal Board action or any newly adopted Board policy. That resolution was based on the Board’s legal obligations that have been established by binding court precedent. However, the Board’s adherence to those rulings should not be understood as a rejection of students’ religious rights and liberties in the school setting. The Jefferson County Board of Education remains firmly committed to respecting and protecting those rights and liberties in every way permitted by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

Not the first time

The Freedom from Religion Foundation is well known for blocking religious activity at public schools — and this isn't the first time it has tackled prayer at high school football games.

In 2019, the FFRF demanded that officials with a Missouri high school stop their football coaches from praying with players.

Also that year, an FFRF complaint led to ban on school-sponsored prayer before football games at another Alabama high school — Opelika High School — with a moment of silence replacing it. However, students recited "The Lord's Prayer" on their own.

Praying at high school games leads to debate in Jefferson County youtu.be

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