A southeastern Tennessee public high school will no longer allow prayers to be said over its public address system before the start of its football games.
Hamilton County School Superintendent Jim Scales has ended the tradition of a prayer being said over the loudspeakers after two students at Soddy - Daisy High School near Chattanooga objected to the practice.
One of the students contacted the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a Madison, Wis.-based group that promotes separation of church and state. The organization's officials sent a letter of complaint to Scales asking him to halt the prayers.
"The fact of the matter is that prayer in not allowed at public functions including graduation and football games, and it can't be done over a loudspeaker. It can't be done at graduation ceremonies," Freedom From Religion attorney Rebecca Markert said.
"Once someone presses the issue, then we know how the courts rule on these things, so it's probably incumbent upon us at this point to act in a responsible manner," Scales said.
Scales instructed Principal John Maynard to stop the practice.
However, several students say they support publicly praying before the games and they don't want the practice stopped.
"I think before a football game everybody should get together for a prayer to God for everyone to make sure nobody gets hurt and nothing goes wrong," student Taon Harris said.
"Everybody that I know is all for it," another student said. "They see that good things come from prayer. It's what we do around here."
Jim Rogers is the father of East Hamilton School's football team manager. He told the Associated Press that public prayer is protected under the U.S. Constitution.
"Our country was founded on the principle of religious suffrage and the freedom to express that religion," he told the newspaper.
The new rule applies to all Hamilton County schools. It also forbids teachers and coaches from taking part in group prayer during school events.