Athletic Board Barred Pre-Game Prayers – This Is What the Football Players Did Next

The headmaster at a Christian school won’t passively accept what he considers a violation of the First Amendment.

WORLD reported that Tom Euler, headmaster at the Cambridge Christian School in Tampa, Florida, and the opposing school asked the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) for permission to pray in the Citrus Bowl before their state championship game in December. The prayer would be heard through the public address system. The board denied the request on the grounds that public praying on taxpayer-funded property amounted to an endorsement of religion.

“It seemed like a simple request to me,” Euler told WORLD. “Both schools had done this at the start of all their games. The fans would be from both the schools.”

But secularists don’t see anything as simple when it comes to Christians. Euler made a second request. An excerpt:

Roger Dearing, the executive director of the FHSAA was apologetic, but again gave a firm no: The facility, paid for by tax dollars, was off-limits for public prayer.

“I totally understand the desire,” Dearing said in an email to the school, “[but] for me to grant the wish could subject this association to tremendous legal entanglements.”

Euler said he was disappointed, but told the two coaches the news. The coaches informed the players, who hatched a plan to pray from the field.

Right before the kickoff, players from both teams left their 40-yard lines to form a huddle by the stands, where fans joined in reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

Attorney Jeremy Dys with Liberty Institute, which represents Cambridge Christian, said the civil disobedience was necessary in the minds of the players, coaches, and fans to carry on the longstanding tradition of praying before a game.

Even though their coach (or a pastor) wouldn’t be allowed to offer prayers that could be heard through the public address system, the players from both teams decided to pray as a group on the field.

On Cambridge’s behalf, Liberty Institute sent a letter (PDF) to the FHSAA and requested a formal apology. Private religious speech at taxpayer-supported facilities is protected, Liberty Institute contends. Denying the request amounts to viewpoint discrimination.

In a similar incident that BCN covered, Coach Joe Kennedy of Bremerton High School in Washington state filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after the school district suspended him for defying an order not to pray on the football field. In yet another example of anti-Christian posturing, a group of atheists wants to sue Clemson University over the way the Christian football coach goes about his job but can’t find a present or former player willing to stand as plaintiff.

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