Rallies at Oklahoma high school will include pep but no prayer (November 4, 2013)

A concerned student reported to FFRF that pep rallies at Alva High School in Alva, Okla., regularly featured student-led prayer circles supported by the faculty. In a letter sent on Oct. 23, FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel reminded Superintendent Steve Parkhurst and the school principal that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment deems any school-sponsored sectarian practice unconstitutional.

FFRF received a reply from Alva Independent School District Superintendent Parkhurst on Nov. 4, claiming that group prayer was merely optional after a pep rally. Seidel addressed this contention in his letter, “Even if prayer at Alva High’s pep rallies were voluntary, and even if participation at pep rallies were made non-mandatory for students in the band, cheerleaders, and football players, the mere voluntariness of the prayers would still not remedy this constitutional violation. Courts have summarily rejected arguments that voluntariness excuses a constitutional violation.” 

Parkhurst concluded his letter on a positive note, “faculty members have been reminded that this must be student initiated and as a faculty member they cannot participate.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation