Several school districts across the United States have succumbed to the pressure of the Freedom From Religion Foundation; however, a Georgia School District found a way to navigate their complaint that could set a precedent across the nation.
Often derived from a single legal complaint, the Freedom From Religion Foundation steps in on behalf of the complainant and drives the Christian faith from the discussion at schools. The FFRF regularly uses the legal argument that Government organizations, such as schools, cannot establish an official religion or favor one religion to another or no religion.
The Georgia High School received the complaint because one parent contacted the FFRF and stated that the school schedules prayer before its football games. The parent felt as though that violated their rights and sought to change the policy. The parent was well within their legal rights to do so; however, in requesting such, hundreds of teenagers and adults lost their right to express their freedom of speech.
The Superintendent of the school, in response to the complaint by the FFRF, said that the school system is doing its best to accommodate the views of Lowndes County students, parents, and fans while also abiding by the law. As a result, the school shut down scheduled prayer before their football games.
The school experienced one game after scheduled prayer was banned, and the crowd was not happy. One student said that "It was just so bizarre to not hear prayer." Further, the student said that he felt as though his views were being compromised.
During the Board Meeting regarding the legality of the situation; students, players, and fans filled the room and shared their complaints about how the loss of prayer compromised their rights to express their beliefs. Further, during the Pledge of Allegiance, "God" was loudly stated by all attendees.
After consulting with the school’s legal counsel, the school is believed to have found a way around the legal debacle. As a result, the school will now have a student present whatever he or she desires from a song to a poem and or even a prayer. The school will choose the student based on "academics and program."
Given the number of persons who desired prayer before the football games, it is well believed that the long-held school tradition will be carried on by its students. Further, one of the constituents, Joe Copeland, applauded the school board for not backing down and, while speaking to WCTV stated that "God Won."
The Georgia school board decision sets a plan of action for other schools to navigate the difficulties of legality when it comes to challenging the FFRF. Far more often than not, when a school board receives a complaint, the board almost immediately caves; but, not this time and now, maybe not the next.