The Freedom From Religion Foundation is pleased that a district court has just ruled in favor of a Florida school athletic association policy against pregame prayers over the PA system.
Cambridge Christian School in Tampa, Fla., filed suit in 2016 demanding that the Florida High School Athletic Association — a state entity — provide PA access to broadcast the school’s prayers before championship games. FFRF had filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the association’s secular position during two previous legs of the longstanding lawsuit.
In a decision today, U.S. District Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell ruled against the Christian school’s demand to have “access to the microphone during the pregame in order to deliver a prayer over the loudspeaker.” Such speech, she noted, is government speech and may not promote a religious position.
FFRF and its chapter, Central Florida Freethought Community, filed amicus briefs both before the original district court consideration and before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in earlier rounds. FFRF’s briefs emphasized that the PA system at a school sporting event is not a public forum, therefore there is no free speech right for a participating school to inflict prayer on the players and audience.
David Williamson of the Central Florida Freethought Community says of the ruling, “All supporters of religious freedom should be thrilled the court found in favor of players, spectators, and anyone who participates in Florida sports.”
What makes the Christian school’s challenge even more outrageous is that the teams had met at the 50-yard line before the game to pray, as the court ruling pointed out.
“With at least 32 percent of teenagers identifying as atheist, agnostic or ‘nothing in particular,’” points out FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor, “it is incumbent on the state’s athletic association to ensure that student rights of conscience are protected. The only way to do that is to keep state events free of government-sponsored religious ritual and indoctrination, as 75 years of case law requires.”
Image via Shutterstock by Floridastock