A Northern Alabama high school has been forced to stop a 10-year-old tradition of beginning every home football game with a prayer from a player.
John Mullins, the superintendent of Arab City Schools, tells TV station WHNT 19 in Huntsville that the worship policy is ending after a letter from one extremely mad parent.
Stephanie A. Schmitt, a staff attorney for the Wisconsin-based group called the Freedom From Religion Foundation, sent the two-page letter to Mullins on behalf of the infuriated parent of an Arab High School student. The letter said the anonymous parent was offended and objected to the traditional pregame prayer on the grounds that it is in violation of the First Amendment.
"It is illegal for a public school to organize, sponsor, and lead prayers at public high school athletic events," the letter read. "The Supreme Court has continually struck down formal teacher or school led prayer in public schools."
It continued: "The law is clear. Public high school events must also be secular to protect the freedom of conscience of all students."
Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. claims to have "17,000 freethinkers: atheists, agnostics and skeptics" under its national membership.
"We don't know who has been offended," Mullins told the TV station. "We apologize if we have offended anyone. We were just trying to have Friday nights the way our community felt was best and live our life and community the way we try to live our life. It's clear, what we've been doing is not in compliance with the Constitution. We're going to cease doing what we've been doing."
Instead of prayer, all Arab High School football games will begin with a moment of silence. Mullins doesn't plan on spending any time or money in a legal battle over the prayer issue, which he says "may or may not be winnable at this time."
The Arabian Knights have been playing high school football since 1922, thought without much success. Arab has a 47.4 winning percentage in school history and according to AHSFHS.org hasn't produced a single NFL player.
WHNT-TV reports several people plan to continue to stand recite the Lord's Prayer at the beginning of each football game, despite the decision.
The Arab Knights host the Guntersville Wildcats in the 80th meeting all-time on Friday night.