Magazine article The Christian Century

Football Solemnities

Magazine article The Christian Century

Football Solemnities

Article excerpt

PERHAPS ONLY NATIVES understand the religion that is Texas high school football. Nevertheless, the U.S. Supreme Court is slated to rule on one of its striking rituals: the pregame invocation. In a case argued before the court last month, Mormon and Catholic families in Galveston County contended that the pregame prayers amount to an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion. The school district defended the practice as a legitimate exercise of free speech.

Prayer in school is an old constitutional battleground, and the Galveston school was quite aware of the landmines. In the past the high court has disallowed school-sponsored prayer that is led by a clergyperson and conducted in a setting in which students are expected to participate, such as a graduation ceremony. According to the court, such prayer violates the no-establishment clause of the First Amendment. The school hoped to avoid this judgment by having its pregame prayers led by students (selected by the student body) and by leaving the content of the prayers up to those students. The school also pointed out that attendance at football games is voluntary.

These technical differences do not alter the fact that the prayers are offered at a school-sponsored event run by school officials. …

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