FFRF has, at least temporarily, halted pre-game prayers at a school district in Beloit, Ohio, much to the chagrin of many residents, with one student saying it’s “kind of like a civil war.”
The issue came to light when two concerned local citizens informed FFRF that prayer was regularly scheduled at school-sponsored events in the West Branch Local School District. At a varsity basketball game in January at West Branch High School, for instance, a prayer was delivered over the loudspeaker after the national anthem was played. Those in attendance were asked to remain standing for this Christian prayer. Reportedly, prayers were often taking place at sporting events and holiday events in the district, with the principal delivering the prayer or inviting a pastor to do so.
So FFRF stepped in.
“It is illegal for a public school to sponsor religious messages at school athletic events,” FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert wrote to West Branch Local School District Superintendent Timothy Saxton. “The Supreme Court has continually struck down school-sponsored prayer in public schools. Moreover, the Supreme Court has specifically struck down invocations given over the loudspeaker at public school athletic events.”
The district proved to be receptive to FFRF’s reasoning.
“A Mahoning County school district temporarily called a stop to prayers before sporting events after it was challenged by a national group that said it had received complaints,” reported Cleveland.com. “West Branch Schools Superintendent Tim Saxton posted a letter on the district’s Facebook page saying prayers will no longer be allowed before athletic events ‘until the situation is resolved.’”
Unfortunately, the circumstances that have arisen out of the original constitutionally violating practice have created unnecessary strains in the community.
“Students at a northeast Ohio high school say a recent ban by administrators of prayers before athletic events is causing tension,” states an Associated Press story. “The Vindicator reports one West Branch High School student says the divide created between those supporting and opposing prayers at the public school in Beloit is ‘kind of a like a civil war.’”
According to Fox News Insider, “Nicholas Pidgeon and Nick Everett of the West Branch School District, and Pidgeon’s father, Brooke, said FFRF demanded that the district stop praying before games. Everett said everyone on the team wants to continue to pray. The elder Pidgeon said the school’s sports teams have been praying for 40 years, and that FFRF’s protest is something ‘we’re not going to take lightly.’ The trio created and printed T-shirts and hoodies that read ‘Prayer Matters’ and began selling them to pay for a possible defense fund if needed.”