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FFRF ends Ala. school district’s loudspeaker prayers

An Alabama public school district has stopped opening its football games with prayer after the Freedom From Religion Foundation called a penalty.

Several high schools in Jefferson County School District, including Gardendale High School and Pinson Valley High School, had been starting their football games with prayers broadcast over the loudspeaker.

It is unconstitutional for a public school to sponsor religious messages at school athletic events. FFRF reminded the district. The Supreme Court has continually struck down school-sponsored prayer in public schools.

“Like the prayer practices in Santa Fe, the prayers at district football games are also inappropriate and unconstitutional,” wrote FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line in a letter to the district. “Not only is the district endorsing these prayers by allotting time for them at the start of games, but it is also providing the prayer-giver with the public address system needed to impose these prayers on all students and community members at games.”

FFRF’s advice fell on receptive ears.

The legal counsel for the school district has sent a letter informing the Freedom From Religion Foundation that “the superintendent met with school principals and the administration will not allow prayer at school-sponsored events, including football games.”

FFRF is glad to provide corrective coaching on constitutional concerns.

“No public school event should ever be opened with a prayer,” contends FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. “We’re pleased the school district has responded with alacrity to educate its staff and provide a lesson on why religious indoctrination and rituals may not be part of school events.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 36,000 members across the country, including hundreds of members in Alabama. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

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