PHENIX CITY, Ala. - Students at an Alabama football game set aside their rivalries during their moment of silence, speaking the Lord's Prayer out loud in protest of a Lee County Schools decision to end school-sponsored prayer during games.
Students are no longer allowed to pray publicly over loudspeakers at Smiths Station High School before kickoff, ending a long-standing tradition at home games.
Students from both Smiths Station and Central High Schools agreed to pray out loud at a Phenix City game at Garrett Harrison Stadium, in solidarity with community outrage over the controversy.
The move came after a parent-initiated complaint to advocacy group Freedom from Religion Foundation, whose legal team, in turn, advised the school district of their concerns between the separation of church and state.
The letter stated, "It is illegal for a public school to sponsor religious messages at school athletic events. The Supreme Court has continually struck down school-sponsored prayer in public schools," it read, signed by legal fellow Christopher Line.
"It shook me so bad. I never imagined that God could be taken out of our community," said Katie Johnson, a student who wrote a personal prayer and read it before the start of one of her high school's home games, this season.
Johnson said, however, she respected the decision. "it's the right decision. As much as we don't like it, we have to think about aspects of every religion," she said.
"It's a choice. You don't have to stand and participate," said one parent, angered over the end of the tradition.
The attorney for Lee County Schools William Sanderson tells FOX 5, he advised the district to end prayer initiated by all school employees, and to end the "use of state resources in a religious context."
Attorneys for both sides agreed student or parent-organized prayers are appropriate, as long as no school resources or used; a spokesperson for the Freedom from Religion Foundation added that no extra accommodations should be given to anyone organizing a "grassroots" effort to pray, such as modifying the start time of a game.