Sunday, September 4, 2011

Blood, Sweat and...Prayers?

In many areas across the United States, high school football is what brings people together to celebrate an awesome tradition. For years, families have attended these events and cheered for their teams as these young athletes compete against their rivals in a game filled with struggle and passion. Although many of us are devoted to the point that it seems to be a religious occasion, few of us actually associate football to Christianity. Kentucky is a part of the Bible belt which is also a football dominated region in America. In Lexington, Kentucky in the Bell County public school district, it was tradition that the Lord’s Prayer be read aloud before each football game. A local minister would ask that everyone in attendance bow their heads and say the lords prayer with him. This tradition was brought to question, and eventually put to an end by the Freedom from Religion Foundation (letter of complaint) who was wholeheartedly against this practice. It should come as no surprise that many dedicated High School football fans are outraged by this new development. In DeSoto County, Mississippi parents and students stood up after the National Anthem and chanted the Lord’s Prayer while wearing T-shirts that read, “DeSoto County for Prayer” in order to promote their right to pray wherever they please. Obviously, the Lord’s Prayer is a demonstration of Christianity making several references to Jesus and “the Lord”, and it is quite clear in our constitution that no public school “can organize, sponsor, [or] lead prayers.” We have removed prayer from school and taken away “under God” in the pledge of allegiance; I am shocked that this tradition was not eliminated sooner. It is a blatant endorsement of religion, “which violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”

Although I do agree that it is a violation of the First Amendment, and I find it inappropriate to say a prayer (affiliated with a specific Church) at a public event sponsored by a government funded public school; I think it is unfortunate that a tradition such as this, which unites a community in such a powerful way, has to be eliminated because of one group’s displeasure. I find myself asking, is this the only example of religious display at public sporting events in our great country?

At the Baltimore Ravens home opener this season on Sunday September 11, Proud to be an American will be sung and nearly every one of the 71,000 fans in attendance will proudly sing along, “and I gladly STAND UP next to you...God Bless the USA!” Who’s God? Does every fan believe in the same God? The United States of America still holds a National Day of Prayer as a national holiday where the President signs a proclamation encouraging Americans to pray on that day. Pray for what, pray to whom? What are the atheists supposed to do?

How can a small town in Kentucky not be allowed to pray at a High School football game, but at a sporting event observed by hundreds of thousands people be allowed to sing the words “God Bless the USA”. How can the President of the United States sign a document encouraging every American citizen to go and pray to their respective deity?

The Baltimore Ravens and the NFL are both privately funded organizations that play host to public events, and are not government funded. It is therefore not a violation of the First Amendment for them to play such religious lyrics at their events. The United States’ National Day of Prayer is not directed toward any one religion but to all religions, and there is no law forcing anyone to pray. The Bell County high school is a government funded organization, however, and the Lord’s Prayer is a central text in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. Reading this over the p.a. system and asking others to join in at a public high school football game is a clear violation of the First Amendment.

7 comments:

Harry R. said...

I agree with Tntbo that the recitation of the Lord's Prayer at public school football games is a violation of the Establishment Clause. This singles out a specific religious focus and is supported by a public school. I feel that the school could maintain the religious aspect of their events by having a moment of silence before every game. This would allow those fans who wish to recite the Lord's Prayer do so without specifically endorsing a religious prayer.

Sophie Kleinert said...

I support Tntbo’s opinion that the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at public school football games violates the Establishment Clause. The Establishment Clause was intended to prohibit the federal government from declaring and financially supporting a national religion. Bringing a “local minister” that asks everyone in attendance to bow their heads to pray at a government funded public school football game, certainly endorses a religion. Furthermore, bringing in a pastor from a local church affiliates the public school not only with prayer, but also with a specific religious community.

Christy said...

I agree with Harry that a moment of silence would be most appropriate for DeSoto County football games. Even if there is a large majority of Christians in the county, the football games are still associated with the public school system and saying and organized prayer, such as The Lord’s Prayer, at these events is against the First Amendment. If this was a club football team or summer league, it would be a different story since their rights would fall under those of private institutions.

Kathryn M. said...

The recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at a public school system, supported by federal tax dollars, is a violation of the Establishment Clause. Arguably, one has the freedom to choose to participate in the prayer. Yet, one is also subject to listening to a Christian prayer while attending a public game. Many people have suggested that a moment of silence would be an appropriate replacement to the prayer; however, a moment of silence can also be interpreted as another form of prayer. There is limited rationale for mandating silence. Moreover, expected respectful silence would maintain the unifying factor of group prayer.

Jon W. said...

I agree that a christian prayer recited publicly before a high school football game violates the Establishment Clause. Having a pastor lead a prayer clearly endorses one specific religion. A moment of silence or a blessing for the athletes safety would be completely acceptable because it does not focus on one belief. Honestly I am surprised it took this long for this issue to become addressed.

kanderson said...

A moment of silence is a great idea! That gives individual's time to pray, think, hope, run through their list of things to do, or just breath. It is a compromise. I do agree in that praying before the game might not be the most "appropriate, inclusive" act, but i was thinking what about if the team prays in the locker room together before they even set out on the field? I know that this happens alot for teams of all sizes, sports, and locations (including in FNL). What would be the ruling on this act? It's hard to say no because it is down in the privacy of the locker room. But what about those who do not believe in a god or do not believe in a Christian god? makes me wonder.

Bensdad said...

I believe we should allow each locality to vote and determine how to handle issues of faith in their public square. Why does every area in our great county need to be the same. I think most will agree that every religion provides good teachings that help societies function more peacefully. The problem in America is that we have removed the good influence of religions in general. Are we a Communist nation? I am a Christian, I like the opportunity to move to areas where my children are influenced by the Christian faith in the public square. It reinforces what I am trying to teach them. People of other faiths should also have the opportunity to do the same for their children. America is big enough to have many faith sub-cultures. A truly diverse area should have a multiple-faith prayer. A Muslim area should have a Muslim prayer. A non-religious area should be able to have no prayer. Bell County, KY is almost exclusively Christian. They should be able to pray a Christian prayer at a public high school football game if that's what the citizens choose. Let them pray America! If you agree, please forward this.  Thank you