Oklahoma athletic association approves prayer policy

November 12, 2015 / Athletic AdministrationCoaching
Oklahoma coaches and athletes will now have an opportunity to pray at games, an act of faith that has caused controversy this fall in at least a few states.

Photo: © BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons
Photo: © BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons

The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (OSSAA) unanimously adopted the policy Wednesday. Schools may allow for a moment of silence before games, however, they cannot deliver an opening prayer over the public address system. Instead, the silence will allow everyone in attendance to “reflect, meditate, pray or engage in other silent activity.”

The new policy applies only to postseason events sponsored by the OSSAA, including other extracurriculars like choir, speech and debate contests. Schools can decide on their own whether to adopt a policy for prayer before regular season games, but OSSAA attorney Mark Grossman warned that could expose the district to lawsuits.

The Supreme Court determined in 2000 — Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe — that student-led prayer at football games is a violation of the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment. Schools have largely steered clear of prayer at any school-sanctioned event to avoid legal trouble.

Previously, the OSSAA’s policy prevented schools from leading prayer over the public address system, a rule that legislators this summer vowed to fight. Rep Bobby Cleveland, a critic of the OSSAA, told The Associated Press that the new policy was a fair compromise.

“I think they listened to our concern and they addressed it. I appreciate that they’ve done this,” Cleveland said in the article. “It’s all about the students. If the students want to be able to get up there and say a prayer, they should be able to do that.”

A head football coach in Oregon was placed on administrative leave last month after he defied a school directive to discontinue his postgame prayer ritual. A Georgia school earlier this summer settled a lawsuit against the district after coaches were photographed leading students in prayer.

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