Religion

Christian School Sues, Couldn't Pray Over Loudspeaker

| by Michael Allen

Cambridge Christian School in Tampa, Florida, filed a federal lawsuit against the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) in September for not allowing a Christian prayer to be read over a loudspeaker before the Division 2A state championship football game on Dec. 4, 2015, at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

Cambridge Christian is suing the FHSAA for allegedly violating their religious freedoms guaranteed under the First Amendment.

"For several months we've been working to try to correct the situation, to no avail," Jeremy Dys, one of the lawyers who represents Cambridge Christian, told the Tampa Bay Times.

The Cambridge Christian players did pray on the field before the game, but they wanted to use the loudspeaker system to publicly broadcast the prayer to people attending the game, but the FHSAA nixed the idea.

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Roger Dearing, FHSAA executive director, said the FHSAA couldn't legally allow it because the FHSAA is a "state actor" at a public facility.

Prayer is allowed by students at public schools, but prayer cannot be led by school officials, i.e. the state.

Cambridge Christian's lawsuit states: "Thus, by denying access to the loudspeaker, the FHSAA denied the students, parents and fans in attendance the right to participate in the players' prayer or to otherwise come together in prayer as one Christian community."

Weeks after the game, Cambridge Christian demanded an apology from the FHSAA, and demanded that the FHSAA acknowledge that the students have public prayer rights.

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"The only reason the FHSAA said no is because it was religious speech," Dys told the newspaper. "You cannot banish religious speech to the broom closets. The lesson that the FHSAA is teaching every student athlete is ... that prayer is wrong. That's incorrect and it needs to end."

Dys appeared with Cambridge Christian player Jacob Enns on "Fox and Friends" in January, noted Mediaite.com.

During that interview, Enns said his team was not allowed to pray:

Well, we basically couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t let us pray. You know, seeing it was done for as long as we have remembered. And it really, you know, made us frustrated and disappointed to think, why would they not let us do this against, you know, another Christian school. And when they pray — you pray, you pray pretty much everywhere, anyways.

Later in the same interview, Enns said his team was allowed to pray: "Yes, we met at midfield and we prayed with our opposing team. And we said 'The Lord’s Prayer' together, just as something to unify each other as fellow believers, and to honor the Lord through that."

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) and the Central Florida Freethought Community filed friends-of-the-court briefs on Oct. 25 against Cambridge Christian.

The FFRF stated in a press release:

Students who participate in the association's athletic championship competitions or attend the competitions cannot be the subjects of publicly broadcast prayer by the association ... The Florida High School Athletic Association cannot be the mouthpiece of religious organizations or be used to gather event attendees to engage in a communal expression of Christian religious worship.

Sources: Tampa Bay TimesFreedom From Religion Foundation, Mediaite.com / Photo credit: Cambridge Christian School

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