Pregame prayers will start again at Bell County High School football games.
First Priority, a group of Christian teachers and students at the high school got approval from the school board to bring back prayers before games.
“We have several of our First Priority students, so it will be student-led, those who are interested in leading the prayer. It’s not an organized prayer. It will happen sometime before the game, probably over the loud speaker,” said Samantha Johnson, a teacher at Bell County High School.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky said it wants more detailed information about the school’s decision. It plans to monitor the school’s prayers to see how they are implemented, reports WKYT.
In 2011, Rebeca S. Markert, an attorney for the Freedom from Religion Foundation sent the school’s superintendent a letter of complaint which also cited federal court rulings that prohibit prayer at school functions.
The school was having a minister lead prayers before the games.
Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president, provided an email of the complaint she had received over the prayers. It read, “All in attendance are asked to bow their head and the prayers have Christian overtones. Please check out this clear violation.”
The foundation made 11 formal complaints to government bodies in Kentucky in 2011. It had, at the time, 125 members in the state.
“The prayers at the football games constitute an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion,” Markert said in the letter.
State attorneys told the school that continuing the prayers would be unconstitutional.
Bell County Superintendent George Thompson said that he sought guidance on the legality of the prayers from the school’s district attorney and the state education department. He said the department notified him that the prayers at the football games were prohibited by federal court rulings.
The Kentucky Department of Education warned him that the school would lose if a person sued over the issue, reported Kentucky.com.
“Folks were pretty upset about it,” Thompson said. “Facebook has gone wild.”
“It's sad that one person or two can stop this when there are so many of us wanting this,” said the wife of the pastor who was leading the prayers.
The school started holding moments of silence after the letter but now plans for student-lead prayers, which are constitutional.