Football players in Tennessee led parents and fans in a post-game prayer after a school district in the state was told that its teachers, coaches and staff are forbidden to do such.
According to WZTV, the Putnam County Schools (PCS) was forced to impose a rule that prohibits school staff from leading a prayer following a letter from the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, sharing about incidents of prayers and proselytizing at events in schools.
PCS then explained its position to Fox 17.
“As a district, we absolutely understand the importance of prayer in the lives of our students, faculty, and staff members. We support the right of students to participate in and lead spontaneous prayers. That right is and will continue to be protected. We also understand that faculty and staff members can not lead or participate in the spontaneous student-led prayers.”
In this regard, the players of Upperman High School and Stone Memorial High School decided to lead the prayers themselves after their game last week. They were joined by some parents who gathered around to pray with them.
The fans were moved and commended them for the action.
“Satan’s power was defeated tonight, as the threat of a legal action to forbid prayer after the game was overwhelmed by player lead prayer supported by parents and fans in solidarity on Overall Field. God bless the Baxter and Stone players for their faith and courage,” Bob Vick wrote on Facebook, captured by The Blaze.
According to Pew Research Center, major laws against religious activities in schools began when the Supreme Court ruled in the 1962 Engel v. Vitale case that a school-sponsored prayer violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment.
In June 1963, Bible reading was also banned when the Court upheld in “School District of Abington Township v. Schempp” case that doing such in public schools is unconstitutional.
In 1992’s Lee v. Weisman case, the highest court forbade clergies to conduct prayers in school ceremonies. In the 5-4 ruling, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy contended that composing “official prayers for any group of the American people to recite as a part of a religious program carried out by the government” is not part of the latter’s business. He also noted the possibility of psychological coercion in such action.
The decision was said to have surprised many. Justice Antonin Scalia, who dissented the majority’s opinion alongside Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, Justices Byron R. White and Clarence Thomas, described it as a rejection of history and tradition, favoring “the changeable philosophical predilections of the Justices of this Court.”
Further, in the “Santa Fe Independent School District v. Jane Doe case in June 2000, the Supreme Court prohibited student-led prayers before football games in high school. In the 6-3 decision, Justice John Paul Stevens ruled that such move conveys that unbelievers are “outsiders.”
“We recognize the important role that public worship plays in many communities, as well as the sincere desire to include public prayer as a part of various occasions so as to mark those occasions’ significance. But such religious activity in public schools, as elsewhere, must comport with the 1st Amendment,” he said at the time.
Stevens was supported by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sandra Day O’Connor, Stephen G. Breyer, David H. Souter and Kennedy.