Tennessee athletes, students and community members have been rallying together in prayer despite the efforts of Freedom from Religion Foundation and the Hamilton County superintendent to shut down prayer before football games and during graduation.
Soddy Daisy High School students and a crowd of community members met in Veteran’s Park Wednesday to pray about recent orders to eliminate prayer at school functions.
“We should have the right to be able to pray. It’s a freedom of religion, freedom of speech. I mean its jus wrong,” Senior Kayla Woolford told news crew present at the rally.
Hamilton County Superintendent Jim Scales ordered all county principals that prayer at school events was unconstitutional after receiving a letter from the FFRF denouncing loud speaker prayers at school events.
FFRF Staff Attorney Rebecca Market sent the superintendent the letter earlier this month after the family of an unidentified Soddy-Daisy student complained. The letter stated, “The Supreme Court has struck down pre-game invocations even when they are student initiated.”
However, Bryan Beauman, an Alliance Defense Fund attorney, disagrees. “You can’t eliminate any and all reference to a student’s faith,” he said.
He said Christians need to know that not all religious speech is banned in school and that schools can create contracts with students and staff to allow students to express their beliefs.
According to the letter, Soddy-Daisy High School started football games by leading the audience in prayer over a loud speaker. The school also allows the salutatorian to offer a prayer each year during the graduation ceremony.
John Whitehead contends the real issue was that the prayers were school-initiated and given over a loud speaker.
He said the prayers cannot be a planned part of school functions nor can they be broadcast over loudspeakers and public announcement systems.
“It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way these things are … Our schools [have] become totally secular,” said Whitehead.
While it may be unconstitutional for students and faculty to have planned prayer at school functions, Whitehead said Christians should still proclaim their faith. “The thing that Christian students can do is have Christian clubs.”
According to local reports, it was a student group that led the prayer effort on Wednesday. They plan to lead prayers again Friday on the football field.
Organizer and Soddy Daisy Senior Shelton Brown said, “Our goal is to pursue God so that when people get this message, they’ll want to help with the prayer that we’re going to be doing at Soddy so that we can win this thing. We can get our prayer back over the loud speakers.”