Florida Christian school files lawsuit over pregame prayer

October 4, 2016 / Athletic AdministrationFootball
A Christian school in Florida has filed a lawsuit against the state athletic association, a move prompted by an incident late last year when its football team was prevented from leading fans in prayer over a stadium loudspeaker.

huddle footballCambridge Christian School (Tampa) filed the lawsuit last week in federal court, requesting that the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) change its policies. The school argues that by preventing prayer over the loudspeaker at last year’s state championship game, it violated the players’ religious freedoms.

The FHSAA’s position is that, as a public entity, it cannot give permission for teams to use the loudspeaker for prayer.

From the Tampa Bay Times:

In denying the school’s request to use the loudspeaker for the prayer, Roger Dearing, executive director of the FHSAA, said that the organization could not legally grant permission, since it was a “state actor” operating in a public facility.

The teams both engaged in a pre-game prayer on the football field, the lawsuit states. But spectators and fans were unable to hear the prayer or participate because it was not broadcast over the loudspeaker.

“Thus, by denying access to the loudspeaker,” the complaint states, “the FHSAA denied the students, parents and fans in attendance the right to participate in the players’ prayer or to otherwise come together in prayer as one Christian community.”

The issue of prayer at high school sporting events has come up a few times over the last year. One coach at a Washington high school lost his job after he defied the school district’s orders to quit leading the team in prayer. He was permitted to pray privately, but the district claimed it had received complaints over players who felt pressured to take part.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that student-led prayer at football games is a violation of the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment. That ruling has led to a plethora of problems at schools, which are caught between the Supreme Court’s decision and coaches/players who believe their rights are being ignored.

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