Faith and football go hand in hand across the fruited plain – especially in the great state of Alabama.
It’s not all that unusual for high school football games to start with a moment of prayer – an invocation.
The game announcer will ask folks to stand to their feet and remove their hats as the marching band belts out the Star-Spangled Banner. Then, he’ll hand the press box microphone to a student who will thank God and ask for His blessings upon the evening’s game.
It’s a longtime tradition – a beloved tradition where folks of all colors and backgrounds unite as one people – in public – before all you-know-what breaks loose on the field.
But that tradition has come to an abrupt end in Lee County, Alabama.
The school district recently announced that student-led prayers will no longer be permitted before high school football games.
“That is a violation of the Constitution,” Supt. James McCoy told me during a telephone interview. “Students and adults are not allowed to pray over the public address system.”
To the best of his knowledge, the superintendent said no one has ever complained about the prayer – until now.
“In our business – it’s not a problem until it becomes an issue,” he said. “I understand the decision. I don’t necessarily agree with it. I am bound to follow the law and uphold what is supposed to be done.”
The public prayer ban was the result of a complaint letter filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a notorious group of atheists, agnostics and free-thinkers based in Wisconsin.
Apparently, a local parent got triggered by the name of Jesus and suffered a raging microaggression.
“It is illegal for a public school to sponsor religious messages at school athletic events,” FFRF’s Christopher Line wrote in a letter to the district.
“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,” Line added.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation said football games must be secular to “protect the freedom of conscience of all students.”
Oh, good grief. It’s a pre-game prayer – not a Sunday morning revival service.
Supt. McCoy said the public prayer will be replaced with a moment of silence.
So what happens if someone in the stadium on Friday night decides to recite The Lord’s Prayer? Will they be kicked off school property? Will they be tossed in jail?
The superintendent said spontaneous recitation of The Lord’s Prayer would be permissible.
“That has not been banned,” he said.
Well, if that’s the case, the student who was previously assigned the prayer should pull out a megaphone and in a very subtle way holler, “Hey y’all – hush up. We’re about to spontaneously recite The Lord’s Prayer.”
And if I know the folks in Alabama – I reckon those godforsaken atheists will be able to hear that prayer all the way back in Wisconsin.