Putnam County Schools in Tennessee banned coaches and staff from leading students in prayer. According to the district’s spokesperson, “Courts have consistently ruled that prayer and proselytizing cannot be sponsored by schools or school personnel.”
Upperman defied those orders on Sept. 17 after the game against Stone Memorial when the team gathered together for prayer.
“Satan’s power was defeated tonight, as the threat of legal action to forbid prayer after the game was overwhelmed by player lead prayer, supported by parents and fans in solidarity on Overall Field,” Bob Vick, a graduate of a PCS school said, “God bless the Baxter and Stone players for their faith and courage.”
The situation came to light after a letter from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State complained about the proselytizing and prayer during school events.
“We do realize this is a public school, but it has always been optional for players to pray, and has been a voluntary event. Players that still want to pray will have to do it on their own,” Dustin Whitefield wrote to FOX 17 News. “After the game, players and cheerleaders that choose to will be on the field praying on their own. A group of parents will be going out on the field to support them. We will join hands and encircle them from a distance as a sign of protection and solidarity in choosing to continue to pray. This is a parent-led event! We are encouraging anyone that would like to show their support to please join us.”
The schools added this in a statement to FOX 17 News:
“As a district, we absolutely understand the importance of prayer in the lives of our students, faculty, and staff members. We support the right of students to participate in and lead spontaneous prayers. That right is and will continue to be protected. We also understand that faculty and staff members can not lead or participate in the spontaneous student-led prayers.”
-Corine Gatti-Santillo is a CNJ Editor and Partner. Follow her on Facebook.