A high school football program in Alabama is still coming to grips with the end of pregame prayer over the loudspeaker after an early season complaint filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) brought an alleged longstanding high school tradition to an end.
As reported by The Auburn Plainsman, the Opelika (Ala.) High School football team officially ended its organized pregame prayer over the stadium loudspeaker in mid-September after receiving a complaint from the FFRF after the team’s home opener in late August. In addition to the complaint about the pregame loudspeaker prayer, which was initially brought to the FFRF by a concerned Opelika parent, the organization also noted allegations of coaches praying with student athletes during practices and games.
Coaches praying with athletes is considered an illegal violation of the separation of church and state because the coaches are technically public employees leading an act of organized religious worship, a Constitutional violation.
While the reciting of the Lord’s Prayer over the loudspeaker during pregame festivities was brought to an end by the FFRF complaint, players have reportedly continued to pray on their own before games. That is perfectly legal so long as coaches or other school officials are not involved.
The Opelika High School prayer case divided local opinion, but it was hardly the first to hit an Alabama high school. Similar cases were reported to the FFRF in 2017 and 2018, leading to warnings sent to Hewitt-Trussville and Hayden High Schools. Both schools ceased established pregame prayer traditions, though Hayden football players responded to the end of that practice by entering the field with “In God We Trust” signs at their next home football game.