FFRF ends soccer prayer in Georgia (Sept. 21, 2011)

FFRF Staff Attorney Stephanie Schmitt sent a letter of complaint Aug. 29 to Superintendent Thomas Lockamy Jr. of Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools, Savannah, Ga., after a local complainant alerted FFRF to constitutional violations.

Before games, soccer team members from Savannah Arts Academy, a public school with a performing and visual arts emphasis, joined hands in a circle to pray, with referees often participating. In addition, the annual soccer awards banquet is held at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. A parent who is also a pastor led a prayer before the meal, with the principal standing beside him.

The law is clear, Schmitt wrote: “Public high school events must be secular to protect the freedom of conscience of all students. A public school cannot allow students and officials to join in prayer before athletic events. Nor can a public school invite a minister to deliver a prayer at awards banquets.”

Lockamy responded Sept. 13 by letter and by phone Sept. 21 to give his reassurance that the district will uphold its “legal and constitutional obligations.” 

Freedom From Religion Foundation