After an atheist group discovered that an Alabama high school began their football game with a prayer, they sent the school a letter warning of legal action. Despite threatening the school into silence, the roaring fans were about to send the group a special message.
When Opelika High School opened a football game with a Christian prayer over the loudspeaker, it wasn’t long before the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) caught wind of the situation. In an official letter, the FFRF warned the school that allowing a prayer over the PA system was a constitutional violation, even if it’s carried out by a student, according to Alabama News.
“It is illegal for a public school to sponsor religious messages at school athletic events and for public school athletic coaches to lead their teams in prayer. The Supreme Court has specifically struck down invocations given over the loudspeaker at public school athletic events, even when student-led,” the letter states.
Fearing a major lawsuit, the Opelika City Schools Board of Education decided to heed the letter’s order to cease praying before football games. However, after announcing the decision to the school, the students and fans came up with a plan to send an unmistakable message.
At the next game, the school announced that it would be holding a “moment of silence” in place of the usual Christian prayer. At that moment, students and fans promptly stood up and began boldly reciting The Lord’s Prayer in defiance of the FFRF’s demands.
The air was filled with the biblical prayer, sending a clear message to the group and any other affiliation that their faith won’t be silenced. In a stealthily planned display, an entire section of bleachers lifted their voices in unison to honor the freedom of religion.
— OA News Preps (@oanewspreps) September 13, 2019
The school had declared that it would still allow students to pray during a scheduled moment of silence as long as it was kept to themselves. However, the student body was determined to stand up for the individual rights carefully defined in the First Amendment. In short, there was nothing the FFRF or school could do to stop them from openly praying, and they proved it just before kickoff.
Opelika High School had admitted that it would have no choice but to abide by the order outlined in the FFRF’s letter. On the other hand, the school realizes that it cannot legally stop students from praying as long as they do so of their volition.
“We recognize that the United States of America is a nation of laws and we will abide by the current law,” stated OCS Superintendent Mark Neighbors. “Our students are allowed to pray, but our coaches are not allowed to participate.”
The FFRF claims to thwart such religious actions in an effort to invoke inclusivity. However, many of the students feel that the organization has done just the opposite, leaving the vast majority muffled, WTVY reports.
“Yes, the other student felt targeted and alienated because of it, but now you’re taking it away from the majority, so now we’re having to go about it a different way,” said Opelika High School student Phoebe Darcey.
Others in the community say that the order accomplished nothing good. Some even reiterated that the prayers weren’t compulsive but still included even those who aren’t Christian.
“It was never anything overtly Christian. It was always, ‘Hey God, please keep our players safe from injury, help the fans and the players to have good sportsmanship, everyone have a good night.’ It was nothing offensive,” said Trinity United Methodist Church Youth Pastor Steve Bass. “I just encourage people to stand up for what you believe in instead of caving in and bowing down. You may lose the fight, but you never know unless you fight.”
There’s no telling whether the students will once again stand and profess The Lord’s Prayer at each home game. However, their incredible adherence to their faith serves as a beacon to the entire community.
Although the adults involved were forced to give in, the students stood not only for their own rights but those of their mentors. It was undoubtedly a proud moment for everyone who helped bring up these young people with a sense of loyalty to their convictions.