Group Demands Tennessee School End Prayers Before Football Games

A group that promotes the separation of church and state is demanding an end to prayers before football games at Soddy-Daisy High School in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press quoted the attorney for the Freedom from Religion Foundation, who said the Madison, Wis.-based organization sent a letter to local school leaders at the request of some students at the school near Chattanooga.

Staff attorney Rebecca Markert said the letter to Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Jim Scales was sent last week and objected to Christian prayers uttered over the school's public address system.

The director and co-president of the organization, Annie Laurie Gaylor, told The Tennessean that the Supreme Court found in several cases that prayer before football games is unconstitutional.

"Students are a captive audience, they're required to go to school. When there is a violation like a prayer at a school, they're really vulnerable. It's a violation of their civil rights," she told the paper.

Hamilton County Board of Education member Rhonda Thurman responded to the letter, telling the paper if some people didn't want to hear the prayers, they can "put their fingers in their ears."

Jim Rogers, whose son is manager of East Hamilton School's football team, tells The Tennessean that public prayer falls under free speech rights.

"Our country was founded on the principle of religious suffrage and the freedom to express that religion," he told the paper.

A spokeswoman for the schools says Scales received the letter Monday, but was not yet ready to comment because the system's lawyer was out of town.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.