The Lowndes County Schools Board of Education in the state of Georgia has passed a new policy that allows students to praise God before Friday football games. This could come either as a prayer, poem, or a song.
The council had its first reading on the new policy on Monday ahead of Lowndes High Vikings home game on Friday. The board passed the new policy after careful consideration and with the guidance of a legal counsel.
The policy states that students will be chosen by the administration based on program and academics and it’ll be up to the student if they want to say a prayer or not. The decision was met with cheers and praises from the crowd of students, parents, and alumni who came to support what the school calls as football tradition.
“What message do you want Lowndes County, and most importantly these students to learn from your decision, and you voiced overwhelmingly the right one,” Darrel Presley, President of the Vikings Touchdown Club, said.
Ahead of the first reading, supporters voiced their concerns over the removal of prayer before football during a meeting on Sept. 9. Lowndes High School seniors Taylor Slocumb and Will Steinberg were among those who showed their support and Steinberg called it “bizarre to not hear prayer” and considered the removal as a compromise to his Christian faith.
Prayer has “always been done, and we live in an area where God is put above a lot of other things. To have it taken away from us, it’s something I wanted to fight for,” Slocumb chimed in.
One of the school’s constituents, Joe Copeland, expressed his anger and said he will fight to keep prayer at LHS football games.
“It’s time for Christians to stand up for what is right and to stand up for God. When you quit talking to God, it’s going to go bad,” Copeland said.
Many of the supporters even shouted “God” during the Pledge of Alliance. The meeting started with a copy of the Supreme Court ruling, Santa Fe Independent School District v. DOE, which states that “student-led and initiated prayer at football games violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.”
Lowndes County Schools must adhere to the First Amendment Establishment Clause because it is state-run and receives taxes to do its duties. The law states that “government bodies cannot establish an official religion or favor one religion over other religions and non-religion.”
Under the old policy, Friday football games at Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Georgia begins with a moment of silence followed by a student-led prayer. But there was no student-led prayer on the Sept. 6 game after the Freedom From Religion Foundation complained about the practice in a letter sent to Warren Turner, Lowndes County Schools attorney, on Sept. 4.
The group, which is composed of atheists, skeptics, and agnostics, called for the district to “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.”
Now Copeland has something to be happy about now that the new policy will take effect on Friday’s football game. He said “God won,” and that it “was the whole plan all along.” He called it “awesome” that the students “want to pray to God and attend church.”