Ala. High School Bans Prayer Before Games After Parent Complains
An Alabama superintendent is reversing a decade-old policy that allowed every home football game to start with a prayer.
Superintendent John Mullins of Arab City Schools in Arab, Ala., banned prayer before high school football games after receiving a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
The Wisconsin-based group is representing an Arab City parent who wants to remain anonymous. The parent claims the prayer policy violates First Amendment rights.
According to the letter submitted by FFRF, a student at Arab High School would "lead the prayer, broadcasting it over the stadium's loudspeakers," which could "lead anyone participating on the team or in attendance to believe that Arab City Schools is endorsing religion."
The issue of prayer in public schools has been debated for decades.
The U.S. Supreme Court determined in the 1962 case, Engel v. Vitale, that school-sponsored prayer violates the Constitution because it constitutes a government-endorsed religion, which violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Several parents are upset with the request to end prayer at the games, but Mullins says the issue is not worth a legal battle.
"Yes, in our personal lives in Arab City we are Christian, but our priority is to serve the students of this school system and provide them education," Mullins said, according to Fox News. "And we at this time can't commit the energy and time and financial resources to battle a case we most likely will not win."
Mullins apologized for offending the parent and told WHNT News 19, "It is clear that what we've been doing is not in compliance with the Constitution, and we are going to cease doing what we’ve been doing."
The high school football games will now begin with a moment of silence.
The community is divided on Mullins' decision.
"I am totally in favor of prayer, but I understand the situation and I am behind Dr. Mullins 100 percent," Byron Miller told WHNT.
"They don’t make us bow our heads and stop everything we're doing and pray. If you don’t – If you don't want to pray, if you don't want to join in with, you don’t have to, nobody is forcing anyone," Arab High School sophomore Marshall Cater told the local television station.
Despite Mullins' decision, several people in the Arab City community intend to stand and say the Lord's Prayer before a football game.