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ICC Note: The Freedom from Religion Foundation has renewed its complaints against a Kentucky school district after they reestablished prayer before athletic events, under the condition that they are student-led. They district has stated that the students are acting on their own volition and that the schools are simply “allowing students the freedom of expression if they so choose.”

By Heather Clark

08/26/2015 United States (Christian News Network) – A prominent atheist activist organization has renewed its complaint against a school board in Kentucky after it recently decided to reinstate pre-game prayers—but with the stipulation that the prayers be led by students.

The Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) recently sent a letter to the superintendent of the Bell County Board of Education to ask that it recant its approval of the prayer practice.

“We ask that the board rescind this unconstitutional decision and refrain from injecting illegal prayer at school-sponsored events,” it wrote. “[I]t is surprising … that the school board would knowingly violate the law and bring back prayer before athletic games.”

Prayers had previously been presented during Bell County High School games by a local Christian minister, but were discontinued in 2011 after FFRF likewise sent a letter declaring that the practice is unconstitutional. The Kentucky Education Department had provided counsel to school officials following receipt of the correspondence that clergy-led prayers at public high school games ran afoul to federal case law.

However, according to reports, during a recent booster club meeting, several in attendance stated that they missed having the prayers at the games. The booster club then approached Superintendent Yvonne Gilliam about the matter, who told them that the prayers must be student-led to be permissible.

The following day, a student group called “First Priority” approached Gilliam, who took the matter to the board. The Bell County School Board then approved First Priority’s request last Tuesday.


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