Oklahoma's School Prayer Controversy

| by Maura Turcotte

Prayers in school continue to be a source of controversy, with people still unsure of what is crossing the line.

For example, in Oklahoma, lawmakers believe that a high school athletics program is in the wrong for prohibiting prayers at football games.

The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association met recently to discuss and to clarify the policy which forbids students to lead a prayer over the public address system at high school football games.

"Never, ever were we not going to allow students to pray, but we are going to adhere to the Supreme Court and respect others," Ed Sheakley, the executive director of OSSAA, explained to The Item. While students cannot pray over the PA system, he believes that they can still pray on their own before the game.

Yet, legislators led by Rep. Bobby Cleveland believe that this Supreme Court ban is not as all-encompassing as many believe it to be. He, with the support of over 20 other lawmakers, have condemned the OSSAA’s stance.

"All we’re saying, as representatives, is if the school has been having prayer over the P.A. system at their games all season long, they should be allowed to continue," Cleveland told The Item. "If you do it correctly, then you can do it over the P.A. system, the courts have allowed that. For example, you could have a student chosen by the student body come up and make an announcement before the game and that could include a brief prayer. The courts have supported that."

However, The Item reports that Sheakley simply responded to Cleveland’s belief, "They need to go and read the decision."

This case reflects how the debate around school prayers continually proves difficult and tense.

For instance, the Liberty Institute explains on their website, “[A]ggressive anti-faith groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the ACLU have created a culture of fear inside our nation's schools — to the point that a 5-year-old child is told by school officials to stop praying over her school lunch!" according to Newsmax.

However, on the side of the spectrum, the group Exploring Constitutional Conflict believes that separating religion and education is extremely necessary in schools.

"Peer pressure being as strong as it is among the young, many students who might otherwise choose not to participate in prayer will do so for fear of otherwise being seeing as an oddball," explains the group to Newsmax.

Sources: The Item, Newsmax / Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons