I went home this past weekend and went to a high school football game. Both high schools were public schools and before the game the anouncer said a prayer. It was a Christian prayer (ie, “our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” and the whole nine yards). I don’t understand how this is legal. Am I wrong?
So having an announcer do it is legal since he was not a student?
Wow. Where was this?
Yes, The Supreme Court banned this a couple of years ago, but this little lawbreaker is occasionally still performed, usually until somebody sues. I’ve never heard a prayer in any of my public schoools, although in the more laid-back early Eighties there was an Akiva for Jewish students, a Baptist Club (mostly black), and a Neumann Club (Catholics) at my HS and nobody cared. But we kept what we did inside the meeting rooms.
I think it’s sort of an insult to God to invoke him for a football game when he’s got fires and stuff to attend to, although I wouldn’t have the coach breaking up a little huddle of players on the sidelines who wanted a quick prayer quietly on their own before the game.
This was done in a small school (400 and some odd students) in Tennessee. This is the same school who did something similar to this when the band performed some kind of religious halftime show complete with the band forming a cross and everything. I was contemplating writing something in the paper, but I wanted to be sure this wasn’t legal to begin with.
Any suggestions on what I should say? I am all for the crowd praying on their own, but I think it is wrong for them to lead us in a Christian prayer.
The text of the decision referred to by x-ray vision and Mehitabel: Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe
The Supreme Court has ruled against having school officials lead prayers going back to 1962’s Engel v. Vitale.
Sorry I forgot to mention the town. It was Trenton, TN.
We’re kind of getting out of GQ territory here, but you could check out the brochure Prayer And The Public Schools: Religion, Education & Your Rights from Americans United for Separation of Church and State. You could also contact AU (and/or the ACLU), who might well be interested in taking some sort of action against this practice.
From the cite (thanks MEBuckner!)
“In their complaint the Does alleged that the District had engaged in several proselytizing practices, such as promoting attendance at a Baptist revival meeting, encouraging membership in religious clubs, chastising children who held minority religious beliefs, and distributing Gideon Bibles on school premises. They also alleged that the District allowed students to read Christian invocations and benedictions from the stage at graduation ceremonies,2 and to deliver overtly Christian prayers over the public address system at home football games.”
The gist of the decision seems to be this paragraph:
“School sponsorship of a religious message is impermissible because it sends the ancillary message to members of the audience who are nonadherants “that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherants that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.” Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U. S., at 688 (1984) (O’Connor, J., concurring). The delivery of such a message–over the school’s public address system, by a speaker representing the student body, under the supervision of school faculty, and pursuant to a school policy that explicitly and implicitly encourages public prayer–is not properly characterized as “private” speech.”
Now, I’m not an absolutist–menorahs and creches on a little town’s common don’t bug me, the chaplains that open legislative sessions with a prayer are traditional and often eloquent, etc. But when I see things like this I’m reminded of the cultural gaps that do exist in this huge country. A football game–again, I resort to wow.