WASHINGTON An on-campus prayer event for high school students is gaining wide support as millions around the world are making their way to the school flagpole with protected free speech rights.
Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute recently succeeded in protecting the right of students in Floyd County, Ky., to hold a "See You at the Pole" rally on Wednesday. Under the First Amendment, the group of students will be able to join millions of peers in the annual student-led movement.
School officials at South Floyd High School had rejected the students' initial request to hold the rally. After attorneys from The Rutherford Institute argued for the students' participation under free speech rights, school administrators gave assurances that students will be allowed to hold the SYATP event this year.
"It's important that students, teachers and others know about their right to participate in See You at the Pole events a right affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court, said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, in a released statement. The rallies are part of a long tradition of free and equal participation in expressive activities guaranteed by our Constitution.
Institute attorneys have defended the free speech and religious rights of individuals to participate in SYATP events in previous years and they continue to call on school officials to respect the right of students and faculty. Alliance Defense Fund attorneys have also announced their preparedness to provide legal help for students wanting to participate in student-initiated religious events on their campuses.
"Christian students have the same free speech rights as other students," said ADF Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb. "The First Amendment protects those rights. The law does not compel religious students to abandon their faith or their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse gate.
Church congregations nationwide have also showed support with "Campus Challenge Sunday" commissioning services, where people prayed for Christian students and educators, days before the global event.
Along with prayers, Christian students are also taking their Bibles to school for Scriptures in Schools Week, which kicked off on Sunday. ADF attorneys defend that reading the Bible on campus is legal as long as it is not during class or disrupting the classroom.
Many times a Christian student feels that he or she is the only Christian in their school. Theyre often stunned to see dozens or sometimes hundreds of other kids in their schools carrying Bibles as well," said New Jersey public school teacher Bob Pawson who organized the event.
With more events encouraging Christian students not to leave their faith at home, youth leaders are seeing wider unity among teens on a biblical basis.
"Every year, we have seen this day serve as a springboard for unity among teenagers on their campuses," said Paul Fleischmann, president of the National Network of Youth Ministries. "See You at the Pole unites students in prayer at the beginning of the semester. Young people have taken unprecedented leadership through this to have a positive impact at their schools."
See You at the Pole originated with one youth group in Burleson, Texas, in 1990 and has grown to more than 2 million teens. At last year's event, students participated in all 50 states and from such countries as Ecuador, Germany, Guam, Hong Kong, Japan, Kenya, South Korea, Nigeria, Peru, Scotland and South Africa. And some countries, including Australia and Canada, have launched SYATP movements of their own.
This year's event centers around an Old Testament verse: "Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations." The theme was chosen as Americans and people worldwide have faced or are still in the midst of natural disasters and wartime conflict.
Students will gather at the pole Wednesday morning to intercede for their leaders, schools, and families, asking God to bring moral and spiritual awakening.