By Michal Ortner
After a push from the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) to muzzle students in their attempts to pray at sporting events, an Arkansas Superintendent looked into the legality of suppressing the students’ rights.
After FFRF sent a letter of disapproval to a high school in Ashdown, AR, stating their concerns about a band director who prayed at their home football games, Jason Sanders, the school’s superintendant, spoke with The Alliance for Defending Freedom (AFDF), who assured him that the prayers were completely legal.
According to Sanders, the AFDF informed him that students are allowed to lead the prayers, so the school ensured that a member of the student body always initiated them. The Supreme Court, however, were not in agreement with this ruling.
Because the football game is a school-sponsored event, student led prayers are considered an affront to non-religious students and seen as a way of proselytizing on school grounds.
“We feel like that the freedom of our students to express themselves will hold up in a court of law,” Sanders said. “We’re not going to stop any student who wants to exercise their freedom of religious expression such as a prayer.”
Students have overwhelmingly supported the right to pray at the games. It is customary for them to gather on the field together before games in order to kneel and pray together. Local pastor, Butch Riddle, says that the challenge from the FFRF has caused several students to take their faith more seriously.
“It’s encouraged students to understand that they can in fact pray in many different ways and different times,” Riddle stated.
Attorney General, Scott Pruitt, is working diligently to defend prayer in Oklahoma schools. The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association recently approved a policy that places a ban on public prayers on school grounds.
“You just can’t uniformly, arbitrarily say, ‘We are going to allow all speech except religious speech,’ and that is why it is overbroad,” Pruitt said. He also added that the OSSAA policy was blatantly in violation of a student’s Constitutional rights.