Over the weekend, before Texas A&M lost to Ole Miss, the Aggies held not one, not two, but three separate prayers on the field before kickoff. The first two were led by Student Body President Kyle Kelly. The third was led by Memorial Student Center President Ryan Trantham.
Kelly said the idea originated from the South Carolina game when he noticed how the Gamecocks led a prayer before the game. He said he liked the idea, but didn’t think anything more of it.
The following week, Kelly said he received a phone call from Regent Jim Schwertner, who asked if Kelly had also noticed the gameday prayer.
“Our school has got such time honored traditions and values and I thought why aren’t we doing that?” Schwertner said.
Because it’s illegal, that’s why.
The Supreme Court has said this time and time again: Student-led prayers may be acceptable, but not when the school promotes them and, in this case, actually presses for them to happen.
What’s happening at Texas A&M is school-sanctioned prayer delivered by student government representatives. Even if it’s not sectarian, it sends the message that the school promotes religion over non-religion.
At least one student quoted in the school newspaper understands that:
Katherine Kimball, economics sophomore, said she felt the prayer was unnecessary and was potentially a sensitive issue for those who did not prescribe to any religion.
“If the students wanted to do it on their own or even if the players wanted to do it, it would be different, right?” Kimball said. “Like, it would be personal, but I feel like if they have that one overall prayer that you have to do at the beginning of a football game, it kind of makes it more like A&M doing it. Then it makes it look like a public institution supporting a particular religion, which I disagree with.”
Make no mistake, this isn’t just student-led. This is a prayer that came from the top down:
Kelly said he envisions student leaders leading the gameday prayers, but the process to have a prayer approved was ultimately left to officials within the university system.
“Dr. Mark Hussey is the one who ultimately made the decision to have the prayer here in College Station,” Kelly said. “The Chancellor made the decision for the prayer to be said system-wide at all the other system schools as well.”
I’ve alerted FFRF to the problem. We’ll see if anything comes of it.
By the way, it’s not like the weekend’s prayers helped. The Aggies are on a two-game losing streak after beginning the season 5-0.