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UPDATE: Bradley Co. school's attorney responds to complaint filed over prayer

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BRADLEY COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: The Bradley County School District is responding to a complaint, filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The group is demanding the school district end the practice of prayer at school sponsored events.

It's not clear how Bradley Central athletics will change going forward, but the district's attorney says he understands the law, which says anyone who attends a sporting event should have the choice to participate in prayer.

Cellphone video showing a student-led prayer over the loudspeaker before an October 13th football game sparked a formal complaint by the Freedom From Religion Foundation last week.

Students tell channel 3, prayer is part of Bradley Central sports. 

"I've always been told that because it was a student that it was okay," said student Cade Baker.

Baker organized a church service on the football field over the weekend in response to the complaint.

"We'll get together, students will and um pray before the school year starts, just to get things going on the right foot," said Baker. 

It's not the prayer the Freedom From Religion group demands stop, but how the district prays before sporting events.

The complaint points to Supreme Court rulings which state praying over the loudspeaker, forces everyone in attendance to participate
and is not okay, even if a student is the one leading the prayer.

Law also prohibits faculty members from participating in student-initiated or student-led prayer.

"We pray before pretty much every game in every sport," said student athlete CJ Beck. "We sometimes do it over the loud speaker, I know that personally I pray before every game and we pray as a team before every game and we will pray with anybody before the game." 

The school system's attorney would not say what will change, but he gave Channel 3 the following statement:

"The Board of Education understands the significance of student's religious liberties. We will be working with board members, system administrators and school leaders to address these issues." - Scott Bennett, Attorney for Bradley County Schools. 

Bennett formally responded to Freedom From Religion saying he understands the law and plans to discuss the issue with the school board. A spokesperson for the group says he is satisfied with that response at this time. 

Freedom From Religion Foundation officials say another complaint was filed against Bradley Central Schools last year that resulted in summer training for school system administration on their constitutional duty to maintain the separation of church and state. 


ORIGINAL STORY: Bradley Central High School is under fire for a prayer delivered over the loudspeaker before a football game. 

An employee of the school sent video of the prayer to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation says the district must take immediate action to end the practice of prayer at school sponsored events. 

This comes after an employee filed a complaint with the foundation, saying an announcer prayed over the loudspeaker during an October 13th football game at Bradley Central High School. 

Channel 3 obtained video of that prayer.

You can can hear the announcer instruct everyone in the crowd to rise and ask that they remove their hats for the prayer. Then you can hear the prayer that the Freedom From Religion Foundation says was led by a student. 

"Alright, everyone please bow your heads," the student said. "Dear Lord, thank you for getting everyone here safe tonight."

The prayer lasted for about 20 seconds. 

Freedom From Religion officials call the prayer a constitutional violation, citing a Supreme Court ruling in 2000 that said it was not okay to pray over loudspeakers at public school athletic events.

They go on in the letter to say, "public school events must be secular to protect the freedom of conscience of all students."

The letter asks the school district to respond with a solution.

Channel 3 asked the Bradley County schools attorney for a statement and have not yet heard back. 

Stay with WRCBtv.com for updates to this story.

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