Students from all across the United States prayed, sang and cried out to God during Wednesday’s annual See You at the Pole event at public and private schools of all grade levels.
Organizers of the student-led prayer rally estimated that 3 million people would participate in the 21st anniversary of the youth movement that started in the Fort Worth suburb of Burleson, Texas, in 1990.
At Oak Mountain Middle School in Shelby County, Ala., in a heavy fog, about 300 students huddled on the football field to pray. In central Alabama, an estimated 30,000 Christian students gathered before the morning school bell at more than 200 public schools, The Birmingham News reported.
Some prayer circles throughout the United States ruffled the emotions of residents of local communities. In Lebanon County, Pa., a group of about a dozen parents and 30 children prayed at the flagpole in front of East Hanover Elementary School, while three representatives from atheist groups held protest signs.
“We don’t care if they pray ... But don’t intermingle it with school,” a member of the American Atheists Inc., told the Patriot-News. There were no incidents reported.
School officials in Sumner County, Tenn., forbade teachers and administrators from bowing their heads to pray while students were watching. The decision in regards to the See You at the Pole event was made after a principal at Westmoreland Middle School previously witnessed football coaches at the school bowing their heads during a post-game prayer in the end zone.
Though the coaches did not pray aloud, the school’s principal complained of the coaches’ public participation in a student-led prayer.
Prior to the nationwide prayer rally Wednesday, the Arizona-based legal group Alliance Defense Fund said they are ready to defend students who are prevented or discouraged by public school officials from participating in the prayer event without charging any legal fees.
Inquiries were made to the ADF during the week leading up to the event, and more were made on Wednesday. A spokesperson for the ADF told The Christian Post late Wednesday that specific details could not be presently released, but that the inquiries came from across the nation.
Ann Schlink, a senior at Richwoods High School in Peoria, Ill., said 42 people, including five adults, showed up at the campus at 6:45 a.m. and prayed for 35 minutes.
When asked about a common theme of the prayers held, Schlink said it was to “let God’s light shine through us.”
In Suffolk, Va., hundreds of youth and adults gathered around flagpoles at schools, according to the News-Herald.
“We’re the youth of this generation, so if we just sit around and don’t spread the word of Jesus how is it going to be spread? It’s important we spread the word of Jesus and give people prayer, because they need it,” Nansemond River High School sophomore Allyn Letourneau said, as reported by the Herald.