Tuesday, August 25, 2015

High school football is back, and so is the battle over prayer before games in one rural town

With high school sports back in action in many parts of the nation, so is the familiar sight of players praying before beginning competition. Also back is the battle between a group that fights for separation of government and religion and a rural southeastern Kentucky high school over organized group prayers before football games, Bill Estep reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. (Best Places map: Bell County High School is located in Pineville)

In a letter last week to Bell County High School Superintendent Yvonne Gilliam, the Freedom From Religion Foundation "warned the school board against allowing a prayer before the season opener Friday night (Aug. 21) against Middlesboro," Estep writes. A foundation complainant who was at the game "said there was a student-led Christian prayer, according to Rebecca Markert, an attorney for the organization based in Madison, Wis." Markert said in the letter to the school, "Scheduling prayer at a school-sponsored event is a flagrant violation of the law." Gilliam said the prayer was not school-sponsored and that officials made it clear that "the prayer would have to be initiated and led by students."

Before 2011, Bell County "had a long custom of letting a Christian minister lead a prayer before football games," Estep writes. That custom stopped after the foundation complained. But recently, "the issue came up again at a recent booster club meeting." said Joe Humfleet, who leads the boosters. Humfleet told Estep, "We need to go on with what's right. We're letting the minority dictate what we do. It's not right morally, and it's not right by our American way." (Read more)

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