ACLU attacks student-led prayer at football games

Alliance Defending Freedom advises Mich. School District to change policy to protect students’ free speech
Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Attorney sound bites:  Rory Gray  |  Jeremy Tedesco

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. — Alliance Defending Freedom sent a Michigan School District a legal letter Friday after the ACLU formally complained about prayers at the conclusion of football games that school officials found to be voluntary and student-led.  

“There’s no legitimate basis for public school officials to shut down students’ private religious speech,” said Litigation Counsel Rory Gray. “Students who express their faith before, during, or after the school day are exercising their constitutional freedoms. Atheist groups are attempting to browbeat schools into believing otherwise.”
After the ACLU sent Bloomfield Hills Schools a letter incorrectly suggesting that a Lahser High School football coach was leading students in prayer after the conclusion of games, the district cited a speech policy banning “prayer or references of any religious nature . . . at school-sponsored events such as banquets, commencement, assemblies and programs” and attempted to prohibit the football team’s longstanding practice of voluntary, student-led prayer.
The school district has since verbally agreed to allow students to voluntarily pray after football games, but has taken no steps to revise its policies to comply with the First Amendment.
The Alliance Defending Freedom letter explains that the Supreme Court affirms students are “free to ‘express [their opinions] even on controversial subjects,’ not only in ‘the classroom,’ but also ‘in the cafeteria, or on the playing field, or [elsewhere] on the campus during authorized hours.”
The letter also explains that “‘nothing in the Constitution…prohibits any public school student from voluntarily praying at any time before, during, or after the schoolday.’”
“The Constitution should be the only permission slip students need to exercise their freedom of speech.” added Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “We commend the school for not caving to the ACLU’s unwarranted demands, but urge them to amend their outdated policies so that this does not happen in the future and students’ religious speech is protected.”
  • Pronunciation guide: Tedesco (Tuh-DESS-ko’)
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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