The Freedom From Religion Foundation is asking Chancellor Jimmy Cheek of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville to end prayers over the loudspeaker at Neyland Stadium before Volunteers football games.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reported today that "the administration does not believe there is anything wrong with the long-standing tradition of a pre-kickoff invocation." Vice Chancellor for Communications Margie Nichols said that the university "is still formulating its response" to FFRF's Sept. 13 letter of complaint.
An alumnus wrote FFRF in August that an announcer asks fans to stand for the invocation, which is delivered by a clergy member.
"It is also our information and understanding that the pastors giving the prayers routinely invoke Jesus Christ," said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. FFRF cited a decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is binding in Tennessee, that makes clear that sectarian prayer at public universities is unconstitutional. FFRF asks that all prayer be dropped.
UT-Knoxville fans began to question the illegal prayers after FFRF successfully muffled athletic prayer at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga last week.
Please phone Cheek today! Calling Cheek during business hours is most effective and guarantees that your secular point of view will be heard. Tell him that you do not deserve to sit on the bench, football fans are not just Christian. These sectarian prayers violate the law and must be stopped.
If you are a resident of Knoxville and/or Tennessee, please identify yourself as such. Include your address and other contact information when appropriate. Please take a moment to draft a short, but strong note to Cheek (or better yet, phone).
Office of the Chancellor
527 Andy Holt Tower
The University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN 37996
Phone: (865) 974-3265
Fax: (865) 974-4811
SAMPLE WORDING/TALKING POINTS
(One sentence is sufficient, your own words are best. But you may wish to copy this paragraph in your correspondence:)
I urge you to put an end to UT-Knoxville's pre-kickoff invocation. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down sectarian prayers at public universities, so I encourage you to abide by the law and protect the rights of conscience of all students, staff and faculty. Not every UT-Knoxville fan subscribes to the Christian faith, or any religion for that matter. Up to a quarter of young Americans today identify as nonreligious. Football games act as a bridge between the university and the community and it is inappropriate for UT-Knoxville to make its non-Christian fans feel out of place. Follow UT-Chattanooga's wise decision to maintain and foster a diverse campus by ending prayer. Football fans come in all shapes, sizes, colors and religions. Do not leave us on the bench! Thank you. (Sign your name)
Knoxville News Sentinel: "UT: Prayer before games not unconstitutional" (Please respond to the poll attached to this story: "Should the University of Tennessee stop its pre-game prayer ritual?")
FFRF's News Release: "FFRF urges end to UT-Knoxville football prayer"
Thank you for your help!