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Religion - US
Atheist Group Tries to Stop Prayers at High School Football Games That Include ‘Jesus’

By Todd Starnes
Published October 26, 2011

An Alabama school district has been accused of allowing prayers that invoke the name of Jesus during high school football games, according to a complaint filed by a national atheist organization.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation said the Lauderdale County school district has violated the First Amendment by allowing the prayers at Brooks High School.

School superintendent Bill Valentine confirmed to Fox News that he had received the complaint.

“We’ve referred that complaint to our attorney and we are in the process of reviewing it,” he said.

The complaint was lodged by a single resident who objected to the student-led prayer before high school football games played on school property.

The Times Daily newspaper identified the complainant as Jeremy Green. In an email to the newspaper, Green said he was taking a stand for the so-called “separation of church and state in an effort to protect the constitutional rights of the non-religious.”

“It is not the job of the public school system to endorse religion,” he wrote.

Valentine said that to his knowledge, no one has ever lodged a complaint with the school system about the prayers.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation filed a similar complaint against a school in Arab, Ala. That school decided to end pregame prayers and instead offer a moment of silence.

Valentine said they haven’t made any decision about prayers for Friday night’s football game.

He said the complaint has generated lots of telephone calls – mostly in support of keeping the prayers. He added that most callers have been understanding and “seem to appreciate the quandary we find ourselves in.”

Lauderdale County has about 8,600 students enrolled in public schools and Valentine said the community has a very active religious community.

Among those is David McKelvey, pastor of the nearby First Baptist Church, Killen. He discussed the controversy during his Sunday sermon.

“It’s very sad,” McKelvey told Fox News. “I would think that any other prayer from another religion would not receive this kind of negativity.”

McKelvey said he’s attended football games when students deliver prayer and to his knowledge they have always been benign – mostly prayers for the players, the coaches, the referees and the fans.

“They are in the Christian context with the student ending the prayer in Jesus’ name,” he said.

The pastor called the complaint “unfortunate” but not surprising. Christianity, he said, is under attack.

“It’s going on all over the place,” he said. “You just hate for it to be coming to your doorstep.”

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