ONEIDA, Tenn. — Cheerleaders at a high school in Tennessee have found a way to put prayer back into the pre-game period of athletic events in the face of a recent decision by school officials to replace the prayers with a moment of silence.
According to reports, the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association instructed schools two years ago to discontinue offering prayers over the sound system prior to athletic events. But officials at Oneida High School defied the order and kept praying.
“We just felt as long as no one here locally complained, we can continue to do it,” announcer Kevin Acres told local television station WBIR.
But this year, outside organizations began to pressure Oneida High School to discontinue the practice. Therefore, the school replaced the prayers with a moment of silence.
Acres recently spoke about the change over the loudspeaker.
“I have been asked many times over the past few weeks why we no longer have an opening prayer, like we have done at every football game that I am aware of since we started playing football at Oneida in 1930,” he said, explaining that the removal of the prayer was due to threats of a lawsuit. “In an effort to protect the resources of our high school institution from any legal actions that these groups may take, we will from this point forward observe a moment of silence prior to the start of sporting events.”
Acres then explained that each individual attendee is welcome to do as he or she wishes during the moment of silence.
“[D]uring the moment of silence, if you want to say a prayer, or choose not to say a prayer, that is your constitutional right as an American,” he advised. “In other words, it is no one’s place to tell you that you have to say a prayer, just as it is no one’s right to say you can’t say one.”
“On a more personal note, I would like to conclude by saying, ‘As for me and my house, we will worship the Lord,'” Acres stated.
But football coach Tony Lambert said that the absence of prayer was glaring.
“I heard the moment of silence, but it was kind of a sick feeling in my stomach,” he commented.
The cheerleading squad at Oneida High School was also disturbed about the decision and decided to take a stand. During a recent moment of silence, cheerleader Asia Canada began reciting the Lord’s Prayer out loud. Her fellow cheerleaders, and even the cheerleaders from the opposing team, joined her.
“When they started saying it, the crowd started saying the Lord’s Prayer,” she told reporters. “And by the time the prayer was over with, the entire stadium was saying it.”
Now, the cheerleaders recite the Lord’s Prayer before every game, and no one stops them because the prayer is student-led and is not delivered over the loudspeaker.
“The removal of prayer before football games wasn’t an option in my opinion,” cheerleader Kayla King told the Independent Herald. “It’s your option what you do during that moment of silence, whether you say a prayer or not, but ‘as for me and my house, we will worship the Lord.’ I’m thankful for the community I live in and hope to represent it well.”