Prayer before football game causes controversy - WSMV Channel 4

Prayer before football game causes controversy

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MARION COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -

A complaint about prayer at football games, filed with the Freedom from Religion Foundation, prompted what is turning into a showdown in Marion County.

"At that time we informed the school district that what they were doing was an illegal practice and that they needed to change their ways," said Rebecca Markert, Senior Staff Attorney.

Director of Schools Dr. Mark Griffith says the school system looked at their options in an attempt to keep their tradition.

"I followed up with the attorney of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, who said I had two options, to have a moment of silence or if it was student led then it was within the boundaries of the law," said Griffith.

A student lead prayer, called meet me at the 50 was born. But the FFRF is demanding more.

"It's a sham solution. The school is making the decision to have prayer before the football games, it's not truly student led. It's not truly student initiated. It's still continuing the tradition of school sponsored prayer," said Rebecca Markert, Senior Staff Attorney.

The organization is calling for administrators to divorce themselves from the practice all together.

"The school cannot organize, cannot coordinate, cannot schedule prayer during school sponsored events like football games, graduation, or even during the day," said Markert.

It's a job they say should be left to students.

"Truly initiated student prayer without the participation of faculty or any other school employee is permissible," said Markert.

The group's senior staff attorney says even if Marion County complies, it will be hard to tell the difference between tradition and a school sponsored practice.

"They've been brought up in a culture where prayer has been imposed on them by their school and I would cast out about whether or not it was student initiated," said Markert.

Griffith says he believes he's within the law and will continue to move forward until his attorney advises him otherwise.

"We're going to continue to do this Meet Me at the 50 and we're gonna just press forward," said Griffith.

Griffith says if the school system's attorney advises him to stop the prayer then they will weigh other options.

The FFRF says if school sanctioned prayer doesn't stop, it will work with the person who filed the complaint on what could be legal action.

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