FFRF urges S.C. school district to cancel pregame prayers

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The Freedom From Religion Foundation is requesting that the Kershaw County School District no longer allow a local church to preach before school football games.

A concerned district community member has informed the state/church watchdog that the district has been imposing prayer on students, parents and community members before its football matches. FFRF’s complainant reported that on Oct. 6, for instance, a preacher from a local church delivered a Christian prayer over the loudspeaker before a football game at North Central High School. The complainant reported that the prayer was delivered “in Jesus’ name” and made requests to “our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” The complainant is an atheist and felt alienated by his official school-sponsored Christian prayer.

“The district must take immediate action to end the practice of scheduling prayer at school-sponsored events,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line writes to District Superintendent J. Harrison Goodwin.

The U.S. Supreme Court has specifically struck down invocations given over the loudspeaker at public school athletic events. Prayers at district football games are inappropriate and unconstitutional. Not only is the district showing favoritism towards religion by allotting time for prayer at the start of games, but it is also coercing participation in these prayers by providing the prayer-giver with the public address system needed to impose these prayers on all students and community members at games. Public school events must be secular to protect the freedom of conscience of all students.

Furthermore, imposing prayer on students, parents and community members violates their religious rights. The district serves a diverse population with diverse religious beliefs. This coercive religious practice alienates the 37 percent of Americans who are non-Christian, including the nearly one in three Americans who identify as religiously unaffiliated. The district needs to be neutral with regard to religion in order to respect and protect the rights of conscience of all students and their families.

FFRF requests that the district keep the freedom of conscience of all district community members in mind, and cancel scheduled prayers before football games in the future.

“Official prayers have no place in public schools,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The district has no right turning the loudspeaker into a pulpit and the bleachers into pews.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is an educational nonprofit with over 40,000 members nationwide, including hundreds in South Carolina, that works to keep religion out of government and to educate the public about nontheism.

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Freedom From Religion Foundation

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