After an Alabama high school student reportedly felt alienated by a student-led loudspeaker prayer before a football game last month, a national atheist activist group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, got involved.
The FFRF sent a complaint letter about the Opelika High School prayer, which was "delivered by a young girl" and was "explicitly Christian in nature," according to the letter that appeared in the Alabama News.
With that, the district decreed that a moment of silence would take place prior to football games rather than prayer, WSFA-TV reported.
Students pray anyway
But at Friday night's game, Opelika fans and students recited "The Lord's Prayer" aloud during the moment of silence, the station said.
Opelika students in the @OHSdawgpound recite the Lord’s Prayer prior to kickoff tonight https://t.co/5nsS1Ly23D— OA News Preps (@OA News Preps) 1568418422.0
Student Phoebe Darcey told WSFA, "Yes, the other student felt targeted and alienated because of it, but now you're taking it away from the majority, so now we're having to go about it a different way."
"It was never anything overtly Christian," Trinity United Methodist Church Youth Pastor Steve Bass added to the station. "It was always, 'Hey God, please keep our players safe from injury, help the fans and the players to have good sportsmanship, everyone have a good night.' It was nothing offensive."
"I just encourage people to stand up for what you believe in instead of caving in and bowing down," he added to WSFA. "You may lose the fight, but you never know unless you fight."
Prayer could be winner of tonight's game for Opelika High School students PKG youtu.be
Atheists aren't happy — but not for the reason you might think
It turns out that atheists were miffed — but not because of students praying on their own.
Hemant Mehta pointed to the first line of the WRBL story: "A national group who wants to stop prayer at Opelika football games will not be successful — at least not completely."
"That station has no clue what it's reporting," Mehta wrote. "I don't work for FFRF, but I know how to read, and FFRF never said they wanted to stop prayer. They wanted to stop school-sponsored prayer. And they did. So, yes, their letter was 'successful.' Completely successful."
The Friendly Atheist added that FFRF's own attorney Chris Line said he had no problem with it.
Similar dust-ups have already occurred — with similar results
In 2017, the Freedom From Religion Foundation complained about student-led prayer over a loudspeaker prior to games at the football stadium for another Alabama district, Lee County Schools. Ironically the complaint from one offended spectator stemmed from a game between Smiths Station High and Opelika.
The district responded by saying there would be no more student-led prayers over loudspeakers before football games — but as with Opelika last week, defiant students from Smiths Station and Central High recited the Lord's Prayer during a moment of silence before a game between their teams.
A similar ban occurred at a West Virginia high school to start off the 2017 football season. While the loudspeaker prayer was no more at Clay County High School, prior to its game against Braxton County High School, players from both teams gathered midfield and prayed together.
(H/T: The Christian Post)