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News Release from Freedom From Religion Foundation
(October 25, 2017) The Freedom From Religion Foundation is insisting that an Alabama school district stop the unconstitutional broadcasting of Christian prayers before high school football games.
A concerned local parent informed FFRF that prayer is broadcast over the loudspeaker before Hewitt-Trussville High School football games. A recent game included a prayer that stated,
“Father, today we play as two separate teams, but we live as one body of Christ, as your hands and feet. And through it all we will play … ultimately to further your kingdom.” It ended, “In Jesus’ mighty name we all pray, Amen.”
It is illegal for a public school to sponsor religious messages at school athletic events, FFRF reminds Trussville City Schools.
FFRF Legal Fellow Christopher Line writes to Trussville City Schools Superintendent Pattie Neill (in its ruling in the Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe (2000) case)
“The Supreme Court has continually struck down school-sponsored prayer in public schools. Moreover, the Supreme Court has specifically struck down invocations given over the loudspeaker at public school athletic events. … Even if student-led, the court said prayers at a ‘regularly scheduled school-sponsored function conducted on school property’ would lead an objective observer to perceive it as state endorsement of religion
Like the prayer practices in Santa Fe, the prayers at Trussville City Schools football games are inappropriate and unconstitutional. Not only is the district endorsing these prayers by allotting time for them at the start of games, but it is also providing the prayer-giver with the public-address system needed to impose these prayers on all students and community members at games. Public school events must be secular to protect the freedom of conscience of all students, FFRF asserts.
FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor:
“Students and parents of varied beliefs — and no belief — who have come out to enjoy football at a public high school should not be forced to listen to a Christian prayer. If there’s anything public schools need to recognize, it is the increasing religious diversity in this country.”
FFRF asks that Trussville City Schools take immediate action to end the practice of broadcasting prayer over the loudspeaker at football games.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 29,000 members across the country, including in Alabama. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation’s largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.