Until recently, Opelika High School in Alabama allowed students to use the loudspeaker on the football field to lead prayers before a game. That’s illegal. Students are welcome to pray on their own, but the school can’t amplify their message like that since it would imply endorsement. As far as church/state separation law works, this one’s pretty clear cut.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent the district a letter earlier this month telling them to put a stop to it, and last week, the district agreed to have a moment of silence instead of a formal prayer.
Great! That’s perfectly acceptable.
But much of the news coverage of that moment has centered around how students in the stands recited the Lord’s Prayer during the moment of silence.
— OA News Preps (@oanewspreps) September 13, 2019
Someone at WRBL, the local CBS affiliate, abandoned any hint of objectivity and suggested the “impromptu” prayer would annoy the atheists.
A national group who wants to stop prayer at Opelika football games will not be successful — at least not completely.
… the foundation likely didn’t count on students praying anyway.
The school system announced this week it will observe a moment of silence instead of prayers over the loud speaker.
But we’re learning a grass-efforts by some Opelika High School students is encouraging peers to recite the Lord’s Prayer loudly during the moment of silence tonight.
Students say they will not let a Wisconsin-based organization tell them how to run their school.
I don’t work for FFRF, but I know how to read, and FFRF never said they wanted to stop prayer. They wanted to stop school-sponsored prayer. And they did. So, yes, their letter was “successful.” Completely successful.
What about the students who prayed during the silence? It might be disrespectful — a way of telling non-Christians they’re not welcome or appreciated there — but it was perfectly legal. In fact, FFRF’s own attorney Chris Line said he had no problem with it.
“If they are just having a moment of silence and then individual participants choose to pray either to themselves or out loud, that is obviously their choice,” Line said. “The thing that we are complaining about is school sponsorship of religion.
“The school district can’t be hosting or encouraging people to pray. If they give a moment of silence where some people can do what they want and some people can pray, and it is all individual choice, then that is completely fine.
Somehow, reporters are twisting “That is completely fine” to mean “Atheists can’t handle all this Jesus.”
It’s easy to see why. Line’s response doesn’t feed Christians who have a Persecution Complex. If they don’t get to be victims, then what’s the whole point of religion, anyway?
No wonder ignorant conservatives like FOX News’ Todd Starnes insist atheists lost this battle with a headline proclaiming “Alabama Students Defy Atheists.”
No they didn’t. No one’s complaining. You can’t “defy” someone when they weren’t stopping you in the first place. FFRF isn’t going to complain about students praying on their own. They never have. But Todd Starnes’ career relies on him never understanding that.
Maybe if these kids attended a better high school, they would understand why FFRF supports their right to pray.