Schools in Alabama county end prayer over PA system at football games
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ala. (WBRC/Gray News) - Prayers will no longer be said over loudspeakers before football games this fall for at least two Alabama high schools.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation says it received complaints last fall about the prayers over the PA system, WBRC reported. The organization sent a letter to Jefferson County schools, saying that prayers before the games, including Gardendale High School and Pinson Valley, are inappropriate and unconstitutional.
Freedom From Religion Foundation said it received word from the school district’s attorney that after the superintendent met with principals, the administration will not allow prayers at school-sponsored events.
A staff attorney for the organization says its purpose it to protect the separation of church and state.
“There are people affected by this. I think some people treat it as, ‘Oh, they just don’t want to hear prayer. They don’t like that Christians exist.’ It has nothing to do with that. It truly is just that public schools are a neutral place. They should be neutral with regard to religion,” said Chris Line with Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Dr. Walter B. Gonsoulin Jr. and the board of education issued a statement that the complaint was resolved at the school level and not as a result of board action or policy.
“That resolution was based on the board’s legal obligations that have been established by binding court precedent,” Gonsoulin stated. “However, the board’s adherence to those rulings should not be understood as a rejection of students’ religious rights and liberties in the school setting. The Jefferson County Board of Education remains firmly committed to respecting and protecting those rights and liberties in every way permitted by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”
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