Athletic Association Seeks Dismissal of Suit Over Denial of Loudspeaker for Prayer at Football Game

footballTAMPA, Fla. — The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) has asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a school that was banned from presenting a prayer over the loudspeaker prior to a game between two Christian high schools.

“FHSAA was … upholding its obligations under the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause in not allowing what would amount to a state-sponsored prayer at a state-sponsored championship football game,” attorneys for the Association wrote this week.

The motion asserted that no wrong had been committed since the school was still able to pray—just without the loudspeaker.

“Cambridge Christian was not denied the opportunity for prayer—in fact, Cambridge Christian acknowledges that it was allowed to offer a pre-game prayer, which it did so, publicly, from mid-field,” it said. “FHSAA did not infringe on Cambridge Christian’s right to exercise its religious freedom and free speech rights.”

“FHSAA also has not banned the school’s athletes and supporters from saying anything they wish to anyone they speak with, or from displaying any signage they wish to bring with them. But the law does not require—and for good and valid reason does not permit—the FHSAA to promote sectarian prayer through state-run public address systems,” the Association asserted.

As previously reported, Cambridge Christian School has a practice of praying over the loudspeaker at every game, and intended to continue its tradition when it earned a spot at the Class 2A Florida state football championship. As its opponent, University Christian School, was also a Christian institution, the two decided to lead attendees in joint prayer at the game.

Since the championship—held last December at Camping World Stadium—was in a large venue, the schools requested permission to use the loudspeaker so the prayer could be heard. But the request was denied due to the Association’s belief that the allowance would be illegal.

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“Although both schools are private and religious-affiliated institutions, the federal law addresses two pertinent issues that prevent us from granting your request,” wrote Executive Director Roger Dearing. “First is the fact that the facility is a public facility, predominantly paid for with public tax dollars, makes the facility ‘off limits’ under federal guidelines and precedent court cases.”

“Second is the fact that in Florida Statutes, the FHSAA (host and coordinator of the event) is legally a ‘state actor’ we cannot legally permit or grant permission for such an activity,” he said.

Therefore, the schools did not use the loudspeaker at the championship game, but rather only prayed together at the 50-yard line. Other messages that were secular in nature were allowed to be broadcast.

“Because of the size of the stadium, the students, parents, and other Cambridge Christian and University Christian supporters in the stands could not hear the teams’ midfield pre-game prayer,” Cambridge’s legal complaint outlined. “Thus, by denying access to the loudspeaker, the FHSAA denied the students, parents, and fans in attendance the right to participate in the players’ prayer or to otherwise come together in prayer as one Christian community.”

Following the game, the Association issued a press release advising that any future requests to use the loudspeaker would be denied.

In September, Cambridge Christian School filed suit.

“The FHSAA’s denial of Cambridge Christian’s request for prayer over the loudspeaker, while allowing for secular messages to be delivered over the loudspeaker and other stadium communications media, constitutes content-based and viewpoint-based discrimination in contravention of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution,” it asserted.

The school is seeking judicial intervention to regain the right to pray over the loudspeaker at future championship events.

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  • Reason2012

    No law was passed forcing this school to have the prayer so the First Amendment was not violated. These atheist activists think “freedom of religion” means “you have freedom of religion where we give you permission”

    • Ambulance Chaser

      No legislative body has to pass a law in order to trigger an Establishment Clause violation.

      • Lexical Cannibal

        Now hold on thur, bud. The first amendment says that CONGRESS shall pass no laws prohibiting religion! Not some college, CONGRESS! How DARE you ignore the very text of our constitution, by pointing out that someone’s ignoring decades of legal precedent! Do you really think we can’t read the words written right there on the paper? It’s not like anyone has to go to school to interpret law or anything.

        • Ambulance Chaser

          Yeah, really. I’ve told him this multiple times, but he just tells me “well, judges are wrong!” then turns back around and continues shouting his refrain.

          Anyway, even if you do think that case law doesn’t exist/is irrelevant/whatever, and that the law begins and ends with the exact text of the Constitution, you can’t ignore that the 14th Amendment says that no state shall deprive the people of the privileges or immunities of the Constitution.

        • NCOriolesFan

          Liberals very conveniently forget the Congress part.

          • Lexical Cannibal

            Just like the pro-gun crowd conveniently forgets the “well-regulated militia” part, right?

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  • NCOriolesFan

    What a bunch of phoney-baloney malarkey the FHSAA did not interfere, hinder, and obstruct the two school’s attempt to broadcast their prayers.