A group of Alabama students loudly recited the Lord’s Prayer at a football game in response to a school district decision to quit giving an official prayer over a loudspeaker after an atheist group protested.
Opelika City Schools Board of Education decided to replace the tradition of giving prayers before football games with a moment of silence. This came after receiving a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation on behalf of a local resident offended by the prayers.
However, according to local outlet WSFA, last Friday at a football game students and fans in attendance recited the Lord’s Prayer, a popular Christian prayer also known as the “Our Father.”
“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,” said one student, as reported by WSFA.
Steve Bass, youth pastor at the local Trinity United Methodist Church, also encouraged students and others to pray aloud during the game’s moment of silence.
“I just encourage people to stand up for what you believe in instead of caving in and bowing down. You may lose the fight, but you never know unless you fight,” Bass told WSFA.
Jeremy Dys, deputy general counsel with the conservative legal group First Liberty Institute, sent an open letter to Alabama school administrators published by al.com on Tuesday.
Referencing state law and case law, Dys argued that although Alabama “cannot command religious speech, it also may not prohibit students from expressing a religious viewpoint on public school property.”
“Those who choose to alter such a tradition, converting the time into a moment of silence instead out of an abundance of caution, may legally do so, but the law does not require it,” he wrote.
“Alabama law, the Eleventh Circuit, and the U.S. Constitution all agree: students may pray over the loudspeaker at public school football games.”
In August, the FFRF sent Opelika City Schools Superintendent Mark Neighbors a letter demanding that the school district end the practice of Christian prayers at football games over a loudspeaker.
Christopher Line of FFRF wrote in the letter that they were first alerted to the practice when a female student gave an explicitly Christian prayer at a football game earlier this year.
“It is illegal for a public school to sponsor religious messages at school athletic events and for public school athletic coaches to lead their teams in prayer. The Supreme Court has continually struck down school-sponsored prayer in public schools,” wrote Line, citing cases from the high court.
“The Supreme Court has specifically struck down invocations given over the loudspeaker at public school athletic events, even when student-led.”