The Florida High School Athletic Association has a simple rule when it comes to reciting Christian prayers over the loudspeakers before football games: Don’t do it. It’s a fair policy considering it echoes what the U.S. Supreme Court said nearly 16 years ago.
Last month, two private Christian schools made it all the way to the championship game in the state’s class 2A football playoffs. That’s when Cambridge Christian head of school Tim Euler asking state officials if he could say a prayer over the loudspeaker. The other school was okay with this, too. But that didn’t matter to FHSAA’s director:
FHSAA executive director Roger Dearing responded that because the Citrus Bowl is a public facility, the organization could not allow a prayer over the loudspeaker. The state championship game was also televised.
Makes perfect sense. A state-sponsored game means you have to follow state law. Both teams were allowed to pray before and after the game and during halftime. Hell, they could pull a Tebow and pray during the game if they wanted to. And because they were private schools, even the coaches could legally join in.
But not over the loudspeakers.
Now, lawyers from Liberty Institute, a Christian legal defense group, are threatening to sue:
[Attorney Jeremy] Dys demanded a letter of apology from the FHSAA within 30 days. If that does not happen, he said, he is prepared to fight the issue in federal court.
“Either apologize now or in front of a judge,” Dys said.
There’s nothing to apologize for, though. The state didn’t do anything wrong. They didn’t block kids from praying. They merely said a public loudspeaker in a public facility couldn’t be used to broadcast prayer during a state event.
I guess ignorance trickles down, since some of the players didn’t seem to understand the problem, either:
Cambridge junior placekicker Jacob Enns said the teams were in the locker room before the game when they got word there would be no announced prayer. He said it was confusing for players and coaches.
“It was an extremely frustrating situation,” Enns said. “Prayer before our football games is something we’ve done our entire season. When we were told we couldn’t pray, we were like ‘Why?’ The fact that they said we couldn’t was not only disappointing but it sent a message to us that prayer was wrong.“
Bullshit. No one was sending that message at all. Neutrality isn’t anti-Christian, no matter how much people with a Persecution Complex want to claim otherwise. (And I promise you God doesn’t give a damn how loud your prayers are. If He can’t hear them in the locker room, He won’t hear them over the loudspeaker. Trust me.)
But Enns’ team was clearly rattled, since they lost the game 61-16.
Fox News’ Resident Liar Todd Starnes offered his usual bullshit, writing an article with the headline: “Christian schools can’t pray at championship game.”
That’s a lie.
A faith-based lie.
This is what Jesus teaches him to do.
I don’t know how to make that more clear. The students could pray privately. They could pray in the locker room. They could pray on the field. They could pray during huddles. They just couldn’t pray over the loudspeaker at a public facility.
[FHSAA] is not required to loan out its equipment or property to amplify public prayer at its events. Students and coaches have a right to pray on their own, but no one has a right to subject an entire stadium to their prayers via loudspeaker. Indeed, FHSAA’s current policy protects FHSAA from legal liability by avoiding the appearance of favoring religion over nonreligion.
Maybe this would be more obvious to Dys and the Christian schools’ coaches and players if a Muslim wanted to deliver prayers over the loudspeaker. Would they rush to defend that person’s “religious liberty” then? Of course not. They’d call that a state endorsement of Islam. It’s only okay when they do it.
(Correction: I initially said the championship game happened a few months ago. It happened in December. I’ve corrected this in the article.)