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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended August 27, 2000
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Sent on Mormon-News: 29Aug00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Protests Over Football Game Prayer Start in Southern U.S.

BOGUE CHITTO, MISSISSIPPI -- At the urging of christian radio talk-show host Paul Ott, students in Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Arkansas are holding "spontaneous" prayers at high school football games, in defiance of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last June that prohibits school sponsored prayers. The court ruling came in a case brought by a Mormon family and a Catholic family, who objected to the support of the majority Baptist religion.

Students at Bogue Chitto High School have organized an effort to pray in the stands and on the field before their school football games without any official sanction or support. But the ACLU's David Ingebretsen claims that the efforts are illegal. "It seems to me that a planned spontaneous prayer cannot be spontaneous and it violates the court's ruling," he said. "If this planned, spontaneous prayer happens, it forces everyone there to hear that prayer or to participate in it." But the school district's attorney, Jim Keith, disagrees, "If fans are sitting in the stand, and they want to branch out and say the Lord's Prayer, or some prayer to Allah or whoever, they can do that."

The effort is similar to those elsewhere. An Associated Press story indicates that a group in Asheville, North Carolina is organizing the "spontaneous" prayers at A.C. Reynolds High School there. They are also organizing a petition drive to urge Congress to seek a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court's decisions prohibiting organized prayer in the public schools.

Another Associated Press story indicates that other schools are simply ignoring the ruling, such as Batesburg-Leesville High School in South Carolina. There the student body president said a prayer over the stadium's public address system from the press box. In Hendersonville, North Carolina a protest group called "We Still Pray" participated in a prayer before the Henderson High School football game and the school board in Searcy, Arkansas voted to allow a nonprofit group to hold prayers around a stadium flag pole before games.

But legal scholars warned the schools that they could be opening themselves up to lawsuits over the prayers. The ACLU's South Carolina branch says two students have already complained about the Batesburg-Leesville High School game, according to LaVerne Neal, executive director of the ACLU in South Carolina.

Those that practice other faiths, such as Buddhist Nancy Greer of Greenville, South Carolina, worry that their rights won't be protected. "It is very difficult to have a totally universal-type prayer that would be applicable to everyone who might attend a football game," said Greer.


Students Plan "Spontaneous" Prayer At Games
EWTN News 25Aug00 N1

N.C. churchgoers protest decision on school prayer
Deseret News (AP) 26Aug00 N1
Associated Press

Football players pray despite court ruling
Deseret News (AP) 27Aug00 N1
Associated Press


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