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.”