Smiths Station students plan to form a prayer line at next game in response to complaint over pregame, student-led, loudspeaker prayer
Sept. 28, 2017
By Denise DuBois
On Sept. 19, the Smiths Station Athletics Facebook page administrator posted a statement in response to the Lee County Schools decision to stop student-led prayer over the loudspeaker at high school football games. The statement read: “To the Smiths Station Community, in response to Lee County Schools no longer allowing prayer over a loud speaker at football games, a group of students that attend Smiths Station High School has decided to begin a student-led prayer line each home game. The first prayer line will take place on Friday, October 13 against Enterprise. The prayer will take place immediately after SSHS football warmups (approx. @ 7:30 est). If you would like to participate, please meet right inside the front gate surrounding the football field where band members enter. Cheerleaders, Pantherettes, and Football Players will line the goal line inside the gate and connect to the outside. All other participants will line along the fence in front of the stands outside of the field. This is a silent, individual 1-minute prayer. Any student/parent/supporting member of the community are welcomed to join in.”
The decision to end the pregame prayer came after the Lee County Board of Education Superintendent Mac McCoy received a letter from the Freedom from Religion Foundation on Aug. 31 stating a member of the community that attended the Smiths Station versus Opelika game was offended by the prayer over the loudspeaker. The letter cited a U.S. Supreme Court opinion that suggests student-led prayer over a public loudspeaker violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.
Smiths Station Athletic Director Sherry Paysinger said the prayer line idea came from the students who wanted to continue prayer.
“The kids are so adamant about it so they took it upon themselves to establish this,” she said.
She also said this is the first complaint the school has had about prayer, and while McCoy’s hands are tied, he is supportive of the students.
McCoy, who has two preachers on his board of directors, said it’s important to note that they did not ban student-led prayer before the games; rather, he is trying to keep the school system out of a legal battle that it cannot win.
“This is not the way I feel, but it’s my responsibility to follow the law,” he said.
As for the student led prayer line, he said he hopes to see students and adults participate.
“That’s certainly what I would like to see. It’s unfortunate that we upset a community, but I applaud the students for finding a way to present their beliefs in a legal way. I applaud them for figuring it out.”
He said two other schools in the county have also adopted a similar pregame prayer line.
“This is the way you rebound as a community,” McCoy added.
The next home game will be Oct. 13 at Panther Stadium and the prayer line begins at approximately 7:30 p.m. ET.