Students speak out against prayer ban at football games - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Students speak out against prayer ban at football games

HAMILTON, TN. (WRCB)-- Soddy-daisy students say they will not be silenced.

They are coming up with a game-plan to put prayer back at their football games.

Their actions come after superintendent Jim Scales ordered an end to loud-speaker prayers at all school sporting events.

A student reportedly contacted a national group called the "Freedom from Religion" foundation.

That group urged Scales to immediately stop the public prayers, which he did.

Dr. Scales says he's seen school districts lose when prayer opponents make federal cases, and he wants to avoid the time and the cost of a court fight.

But a number of students, and at least one school board member believe it's worth fighting for faith.

A free speech lawyer says the first amendment cuts both ways.

They might not all play football, but Soddy-Daisy's faithful are tackling the ban on 'led' prayer head-on.

"I feel like taking it away would just bring the community down," says student Jessie England.

"To keep your job, you've got to do what you got to do. But to keep our prayer, we're gonna do what we have to do," says student Shelton Brown.

And that, Shelton Brown and his friends say could go beyond prayer circles and Facebook pages to getting outside legal help.

"If they see this as significant enough, they'll take this to court at their own expense, yes, I will make this a court issue," says Brown.

One group Shelton has named neither will confirm nor deny it's involved, citing attorney-client privilege.

"The first amendment is very broad on a lot of things, including a lot of things that aren't very popular," says Attorney Jerry Summers.

Chattanooga lawyer Jerry Summers says students could argue that a ban on led prayers violates their own free speech, which is not to say they'd win.

But some students argue nobody's forced to listen to a prayer.

"It's not a captive audience, they chose to come to the football game," says student Matt Jenkins.

"Just let the students do it, I'm sure we can find someone to give them their own audio system and let them do that, I'm sure we can get students to do that," says Rhonda Thurman.

School board member Rhonda Thurman says it's worth fighting on principle.

But Summers says you shouldn't go on faith.

"After you put out the emotional aspect of it and get down to the practical, it can get pretty expensive, pretty quickly," says Summers.

And, he says the loser can get stuck with both sides of the legal bills.

Besides, the superintendent reminds us:

"There's nothing to keep them from their own individual prayer," says Dr. Scales.

Provided coaches, school leaders, and all adults, stay out of it.

Dr. Scales is asking for legal advice so the board can adopt a permanent policy.

They'd need three days notice to call an emergency meeting before the regular meeting set for November 18th.

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