More than three million students across the nation and overseas are expected to gather at their schools Wednesday to ask God to bring moral and spiritual awakening to their campuses and countries.
For the 21st time, "See You At The Pole" (SYATP) will bring together students in the United States to their school flagpoles to intercede for their leaders, schools, and families.
This year, students from more than other 20 countries are also expected to join in the observance as the student-initiated and student-led movement continues to grow.
Since SYATP started in the Ft. Worth suburb of Burleson, Texas, in 1990, the movement has extended its reach to places like Canada, Korea, Japan, Turkey, and the Ivory Coast.
"For 20 years, we have seen this day serve as a springboard for unity for teenagers on their secondary and college campuses," says Paul Fleischmann, president of the National Network of Youth Ministries, which coordinates SYATP promotion.
"See You at the Pole unites students in prayer at the beginning of the school year," he adds. "Challenging youth to take leadership on their campus is always a good idea. Every year, it offers a fresh challenge for them to minister to their friends."
Over the weekend, church congregations nationwide showed their support for SYATP by sponsoring special "Campus Challenge Sunday" commissioning services ahead of the event. Congregations recognized and prayed for Christian students and educators in their congregations.
Also backing the effort is Ariz.-based legal group Alliance Defense Fund, which has attorneys ready to defend students who are prevented by public school officials from participating in SYATP.
In preparation for this year's nationwide event, ADF attorneys drafted a five-page legal memo informing all SYATP staff and participants of their legal rights and precedents that entitle them to inform people about and take part in the annual student prayer event.
"Christian students should not be prevented from peacefully expressing their beliefs outside of class time," notes ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman. "As the U.S. Supreme Court has indicated, they don't abandon their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate."
According to the ADF legal memo, students have a constitutional right to participate in SYATP through prayer and worship activities. Furthermore, students have an individual constitutional right to inform their fellow students about the SYATP event as long as they do not materially disrupt the academic process while doing so.
In addition, if the school allows individual students or student clubs to advertise events through school bulletin boards, school PA systems, general posting of school flyers, or other means, the school cannot forbid the same means of advertising for the SYATP event.
"Misinformed public school officials need to understand that the First Amendment does not prevent students from promoting or participating in 'See You at the Pole,'" remarks Cortman. "Instead, it prevents officials from blocking students from doing so."
According to a recent poll by the First Amendment Center, most Americans (61 percent) can name the freedom of speech as a right guaranteed by the First Amendment. Only 23 percent, however, were able to name the freedom of religion as among the First Amendment rights. While notably low for a nation where over 80 percent identify with a religion, that mark was the second highest among the other First Amendment rights (after freedom of speech) and was the highest recorded by the First Amendment Center for that right since it began its annual poll back in 1997.
Knowing this, ADF, along with other Christian legal groups, have made it a point to inform schools that the U.S. Constitution does not prevent events such SYATP but actually does the opposite and protects the rights of students to participate in it.
"We seek to resolve disputes through education of public officials regarding the constitutional rights of our clients," the law firm expressed in its memo for SYATP.
This year's theme for SYATP, "REVEAL," draws from Matthew 6:9-13, commonly referred to as the Lord's Prayer.
With that commonly-cited passage in mind, hundreds of thousands across the nation and around the world will be gathered in prayer Wednesday morning.
The prayer rallies take place at most schools at 7 a.m., before classes begin. In Australia, the event was observed this year on May 20.