An Alabama community has fought back to save prayer over the loudspeaker at its football games after the Freedom from Religion Foundation stepped in with a threat to pursue legal action to stop the school's traditional pregame prayer.
As reported by the Associated Press and WAFF-TV, among other outlets, residents of Killen, Ala., gathered as a community on Wednesday night to pray about a complaint received from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which filed the official dispute in reference to official prayers before games at Killen (Ala.) Brooks High.
The complaint specifically argues against the Brooks High practice of having the prayers and blessings read over the stadium's loudspeakers before all home games. While the tradition has a loyal following at the school, it runs afoul of traditional restrictions for separation of church and state because Brooks is a public school.
"We want to bless our players we want to protect our players, our band members, our fans, we want their safety and we plan on praying for that safety at the beginning of each ballgame," Alisha Michael, who organized the Wednesday meeting, told WAFF-TV. "We're going to fight this all the way through."
That may mean time in a courtroom for school officials, whether or not Michael is affected herself. The man who brought the situation to the attention of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Jeremy Green, insisted that he would stand by his original complaint, all while defending individuals' right to pray on their own.
"I would never try to take away anyone's right to pray, and I will continue to support the religious freedom of everyone, but there are certain times and places where sectarian prayer is inappropriate," he said.
"Student or faculty led prayer, when endorsed by or sponsored by a public school is unconstitutional and illegal for good reason," he added. "This protects the rights of the members of all religions, and the non-religious alike."
Where the complaint goes next is now in the hands of Brooks officials, who will have to decide whether to continue sanctioning the prayers or pull the plug from the longtime tradition.
Either way, it's likely that more controversy will emerge in a small Alabama town that certainly never saw it coming.
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