On June 19, 2000, the US Supreme Court decided that student-led prayers at public school football games violated the separation of church and state. The controversy started within the Santa Fe School District near Galveston, TX. Catholics and Mormons (not atheists or other freethinkers) brought on a lawsuit when they noticed that the prayers were overtly Baptist. Is this a fair decision, or does it deny the students their guaranteed freedom of religion and speech?
The first flaw with announcing a prayer at a public school football game lies in the school district’s policy: "to solemnize the event, to promote good sportsmanship and student safety and to establish the appropriate environment for the competition." I may be missing something, but prayer isn't necessary to achieve the solemnization of an event, good sportsmanship, safety and the “appropriate environment”. Throughout high school, I was in the marching band and attended all home games. There was never a prayer announced over the loud speakers, yet we were able to achieve all aspects that those in the Santa Fe School District wish to with prayer (mind you, we didn't win very often, but that's another story). What's another good reason to blare a prayer? It's not allowed in the classroom, nor at graduation. Sports events appeared to be the last hope, and anywhere many Christians can edge in some religion, they'll do it. Yes, it's getting very difficult to practice any religion in public schools these days, and rightfully so. Isn't that what private schools are for?
The second mistake the school district made lies within another part of the policy. The students could vote on who led the pre-game prayer and even if they wanted one. In the first place, students in public school have no business voting on anything religious. On top of that, it's illogical to vote on who leads the prayer. Here’s the situation: the kids in any given high school are asked to vote on whether or not they would like a prayer said before the game. The majority of the kids in the high school are religious. They represent many religions: Mormons, Baptists, Muslims, etc. Being religious, they all would like a prayer said before the game. They vote yes, vastly outnumbering those who are freethinkers. So far, the freethinkers are the only ones who are screwed. Next, the kids get to vote on who leads the prayer. Logically, it would follow that the dominating religion within the school will choose a member of its own religion. Now, freethinkers and members of all other religions are screwed and discriminated against. Is this fair? The school district is, naturally, balking at the decision. They don’t see the problem with it. After all, you don’t have to attend the football games. This is fine for the audience, but what about the players, coaches, referees, cheerleaders and band members, not to mention the parents and friends of the players? Is it fair to make them make the decision between watching the game and being offended?
If you leave a prayer in you’re discriminating against other religions and non-relgious persons. What to do? To be fair, the school would have to poll the students to determine which religions are represented. Each member of that religion, if they so chose, would have to submit a prayer to be said before the game. In addition, all freethinkers would need to submit a non-secular speech. Then everyone would be happy. Or would they…? Could one religious group be offended by another’s prayer even though their prayer has been spoken? What if there are Satanists at the school? How do you think that prayer would go over? How long would one have to sit there and listen to prayers before the game actually begins? Ultimately, this could cause more problems than it would solve. And besides, the point of the Supreme Court ruling was that there is a separation of church and state. No religion, period! This should never have been an issue to begin with.
So now the prayers must be left out. Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice represented the school district stated that the decision "distorts the First Amendment by exhibiting hostility toward student speech." Does it? Again, the point is that there is a separation of church and state. In a public school, one religion does not have the right to have their specific prayer imposed on a diverse crowd of people. It is offensive, discriminatory, and I applaud the Supreme Court for declaring it so.