A News 3 reporter was live on the field Friday while parents and students from Smiths Station High School recited part of the Lord’s Prayer during a football game.
The reciting happened at Garrett Harrison stadium just before the team went head to head with Central High.
This after the Lee County School District issued a school prayer ban.
As New 3 reported, one person complained to the Freedom From Religion Foundation after The Lord’s Prayer was read aloud at the season opener. Smiths Station parents say via social media the school has had a long standing tradition of reciting prayers over the loudspeaker before games.
However, after the letter of complaint, Lee County Superintendent James McCoy banned the use of school property for religious purposes to remain in compliance with federal law.
Smiths Station High School parents opposing the ban since took to social media to plan Friday’s prayer in protest. They may soon get some additional support.
Mike Green, the owner of Green’s propane gas in Phenix City, tells News 3 he plans to use his resources to support prayer at the games.
“My initial response was I was gonna pull all our funding. We’ve been funding…one of the boosters for the football program and other sports at Smiths Station for over 50 years when my grandparents started it,” says Green.
He says since learning about the prayer ban he decided to change his original idea for this year’s Green’s Propane Gas advertisement set to run on the scoreboard at Smiths Station High.
“Decided I was just gonna put the Lord’s Prayer on there and made a post,” says Green.
Wednesday night, Green started a GoFundMe page. He says he owns the rights to half of the scoreboard, but he also says based on the policy it can’t go up unless the other half of the board is paid for in the amount of five thousand dollars.
As of Thursday, Green says he reached more than half his goal.
“I don’t think we should be silent. I think we should have our voice heard…cries,” says Green.
Friday, Green got emotional explaining why he’s so passionate about this effort.
“That being on the board won’t silence anybody and it gets the point across that as a community we won’t be silent. We’re gonna have our prayer up there,” he says.
Green says when it comes to the Smiths Station parents and students shouting the Lord’s Prayer at the game Friday night, he says he supports them one hundred percent.
LEE COUNTY, Ala. — Smiths Station High School parents are raising a storm over a county school system ban against a tradition of large group prayers at football games.
The Lee County School system banned using the stadium loud speakers to recite a prayer before events as of September 11.
The school system’s move is in response to a letter from The Freedom from Religion Foundation sent in to Superintendent James McCoy on August 31. The letter reads in part:
“… It is illegal for a public school to sponsor religious messages at school athletics events … The supreme court has specifically struck down invocations given over the loudspeaker at public school athletic events, even when student-led.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation was contacted by a parent who was concerned about the prayer read over the loudspeaker before Smiths Station’s first game back on August 25.
The foundation cited Supreme Court case Santa Fe Indep. Sch Dist v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290, 320 (2000), which said that student-led prayer over the loudspeaker was unconstitutional.The foundation said the school district was endorsing the prayers by allowing time for them at the start of the game, but they were also giving the one delivering the prayer the public address system to project the prayer.
“We’re glad whenever we can inform the school of what the law is and have them follow through and abide by their constitutional duties,”said Chris Line, Patrick O’Reiley Legal Fellow of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
A letter from the Lanier Ford Shaver & Payne P.C. law office on behalf of the school district later responded that Superintendent McCoy advised all school principals in the county to abide by the current law.
“The board of education did not ban student-led prayer,” Superintendent McCoy said. “That’s the bottom line. I did not ban student-led prayer. We have to change the way we do things. We have to do it a different way based upon the ruling of the Supreme Court. It’s nothing more or nothing less.”
Superintendent McCoy went on to add:
“It’s sad. It really is, that a small group of individuals can dictate to a community something that the community as a whole does not want. That’s hard to swallow, but I know that’s the world we live in. When the Supreme Court has an opinion and rules one way, then that’s what we abide by. I’m all for the students of the Lee County school system, and I think certain decisions are made that it’s unfortunate we have to abide by that we may not believe in.”
Parents who have been reciting the prayer with their students before games for years now turn to social media in protest.
An online following shows dozens plan to gather at Friday night’s away-game against Central High School and recite the prayer after the moment of silence.
Before the Oct. 13 game, a group of students will host their first student-led prayer line. At that time, anyone else who wishes to participate will be able to line the fence in front of the stands outside the field and take part in a silent, individual minute of prayer.