Tennessee school district ends practice of public prayer before football games

An Associated Press report in the Jackson Sun says that Soddy-Daisy High School (SDHS), located in southeastern Tennessee, will end its practice of broadcasting a prayer over the public address system before football games. Principal John Maynard announced that he would follow the order to halt the prayers issued by Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Jim Scales. He said, “Now that we have citizens in our community protesting, we need to notify our principals to follow the law based on numerous court cases.” Scales also plans to discuss the issue with the district’s legal counsel.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), a group that promotes separation of church and state, sent a letter of complaint to Scales after some students at SDHS objected to Christian prayers over the school’s public address system. FFRF Staff attorney Rebecca Markert has asked the school to investigate and take steps to “remedy this serious and flagrant violation of the First Amendment.” However, some in the community support the prayer,  arguing it is part of school tradition.  School board member Rhonda Thurman, who is a prayer supporter, said anyone who didn’t want to hear the prayers could “put their fingers in their ears.”

Source; Jackson Sun, 10/20/10, By Associated Press

[Editor’s Note: Meanwhile, the Elkhart Truth reports that an Indiana school district has decided to end the practice of allowing Bible classes in the district’s elementary schools. The Fairfield Community school board voted not to defend a lawsuit filed by the ACLU over elementary school Bible classes and to discontinue its present classes. The board’s vote came after Tim Shelly, an attorney retained by the board, offered his legal recommendation. He stated, “Let me first state that the law is quite clear: Religious instruction for elementary school students on school grounds during the school day is not constitutionally permitted.” Shelly continued, “This is true even if students may voluntarily opt out of that program, alternative instruction is provided during the program and third parties conduct and finance that program.”

Shelly warned the board that if it decided to defend the litigation, it would lose.  He pointed out that such a loss would result in a judgment he estimated between $100,000 and $800,000. He added that by not pursuing the case and ceasing the Bible classes immediately “will cause the present lawsuit to be dismissed at no cost to Fairfield Schools.” A link to the article is available below.]

Source: Elkhart Truth, 10/15/10, By  Marlys Weaver

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