By AUTUMN HUGHES
For the couple of hundred people who attended Sunday night's Prayer Revival at Bradley Central High School, their response to a complaint about prayer before a football game last October was to …
For the couple of hundred people who attended Sunday night's Prayer Revival at Bradley Central High School, their response to a complaint about prayer before a football game last October was to gather to pray.
BCHS students Cade Baker and C.J. Beck organized the event through social media.
“We just wanted to come together during this time to worship God … and show a light during this time,” Baker said in welcoming the audience.
Mickey Clark, lead pastor at Crossroads Community Church, was asked by Baker, who is among Clark's congregation, to help the student organizers lead the Prayer Revival. Clark said this event is "… not a protest … This is not us telling somebody what they should or should not do. This is something that takes place on a regular basis in our community: It’s called church. Church is not somewhere we go, church is something we are. And so we as the church, we pray.
“This is not us, you know, giving the evangelical middle finger to somebody,” Clark said. “This is us coming together and letting people know that we love them. We love God and we love people; we love all people, we pray for all people.”
Clark continued that the event was not a “rebuttal or response to anything that came across the news, but this is what happens when God’s people realize … sometimes you’ve just got to let people know you’re there.”
He stressed, "It's about loving God, and loving people and doing what God's people do: God’s people pray … this is about us doing what God’s called us to do.
“Don’t respond in hate, don’t respond in negative ways … you’re speaking very loudly right now,” Clark said.
The event ended with those in attendance gathering on the football field in a prayer circle.
The Prayer Revival was held in response to a letter of complaint sent by the Freedom From Religion Foundation to Scott Bennett, attorney for the Bradley County School District. The letter was sent based on a formal complaint made to the FFRF on the grounds that exposing students to such religious speech is “a constitutional violation.”
The complainant, who wishes to remain anonymous, is a current employee of Bradley County Schools.
The complainant shared with the Cleveland Daily Banner a video which was reportedly taken at the BCHS football game on Oct. 13, 2017. In it, a student is given the opportunity to lead the crowd in a Christian prayer.
“If everyone would rise and remove your hats, we’ll have an invocation from Miss Jennah Pritchard,” the announcer said.
Pritchard, a student, then said a brief prayer over the loudspeaker, beginning with a request to “please bow your heads.” She thanked God for allowing everyone to arrive at the game safely, and asked that the football players would have “safety and great sportsmanship.”
While it was a student who delivered the invocation, the complainant took issue with the fact such a prayer was being broadcast at a public school in the first place.
In the letter to Bennett, Christopher Line, a legal fellow with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, referenced the U.S. Supreme Court case “Santa Fe Independent School District vs. Doe.” The court ruled in 2000 that a Texas high school could not allow prayers to be broadcast over the loudspeaker at football games. This was based on the belief that doing so violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
Line noted in his letter that the local school district is “endorsing” prayer by allowing time for it at the start of sporting events and “providing the prayer-giver with the public address system needed to impose these prayers on all students and community members at games.”
Speaking Sunday night, Clark also said he was present on the night the protested prayer was made, serving as announcer for the first time. He said the student speaker is part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, “endorsed by our school, approved by our governing bodies.” He said the student wrote a prayer and it was “looked at by all administration” to make sure it was appropriate before she was allowed to say it over the loudspeaker.
The complainant who contacted the Freedom From Religion Foundation told the Banner, “This matter is important to me because the Supreme Court ruled 18 years ago that prayer at football games, even if led by students, are not permitted by our Constitution.
“I am expected to follow the laws of the land, and I expect the school district to be held to the same standard,” the complainant added. “The school district is flagrantly disregarding the law. If I were to disregard laws, I would face consequences. The school should not be immune from consequences.”
In the letter of complaint, Line said the school district “must take immediate action to end the practice of scheduling prayer at school-sponsored events and end the use of district equipment to project prayers to the public.”
Line asked the district to tell the Freedom From Religion Foundation in writing what it will do to “remedy this serious violation of the First Amendment.”
The complainant said the Oct. 13, 2017, football game was not the first time officially approved prayer has occurred at a county school event; prayers have been said at “multiple school events over the course of the past few years.” The complainant added others attending these events have privately said prayer being allowed was “inappropriate.”
Bradley County Director of Schools Dr. Linda Cash indicated Friday afternoon that she was aware of the complaint and said the school district’s attorney was reviewing it.
“I got the letter from FFRF this morning and have not had a chance to speak with officials at Bradley Central High School regarding the allegations,” Bennett said Friday afternoon. “Consequently, it would be premature for anyone with the school system to comment at this time.”
Print subscribers have FREE access to clevelandbanner.com by registering HERE
Non-subscribers have limited monthly access to local stories, but have options to subscribe to print, web or electronic editions by clicking HERE
We are sorry but you have reached the maximum number of free local stories for this month. If you have a website account here, please click HERE to log in for continued access.
If you are a print subscriber but do not have an account here, click HERE to create a website account to gain unlimited free access.
Non-subscribers may gain access by subscribing to any of our print or electronic subscriptions HERE