Archive for Thursday, June 22, 2000

Court: No student-led prayer in public schools

June 22, 2000

The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling barring students from leading a stadium in prayer before football games should not directly affect the athletes and students at Eudora High School.

"This ruling does not restrict a student the ability or freedom to pray," said David Smale, director of communications for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

He said the court's ruling would not affect team or individual prayer before or after a game.

"Teams gather and pray in a locker room and that's voluntary," Smale said. "The total ramifications of this is that they cannot have a prayer read over the public address system. The public address system is the critical fact."

Tommy Stein, Eudora High football player, said he

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didn't think Eudora would be affected by the ruling.

"We pray as a team before a game," Stein said, "but, I've only been a part of one stadium led prayer and it was for a track meet."

He said even though the football team didn't pray out loud, it had a moment of silence before each game and it's understood that time is set aside for prayer.

"Even though there's no leader, the whole team basically prays at that time," Stein said. "But if they don't want to participate, they don't have to."

Even though the ruling doesn't ban team prayer in the locker room, Dale DuVerney, minister at Eudora Church of Christ, said he was disappointed in the court's decision.

"I believe they've overstepped the bounds of the Constitution," DuVerney said.

"The Supreme Court justices are trying to force separation of church from state," he said. "We have separated God from everything to do with public life."

Smale said he believed the Supreme Court had taken the Constitution out of context.

"We are very disappointed in the ruling," he said. "It's unfortunate that at this time when there is so much hatred, especially in the schools, that they are taking out a very positive aspect of society."

Even though he personally wouldn't lead a prayer before a football game, DuVerney said prayer was a form of free speech.

"If a student or coach wants to lead prayer and the players agree, there shouldn't be a problem," he said.

Eudora United Methodist minister Dottie Forinash Knetsch said she agreed with the court's ruling.

"I support the separation of church and state," Knetsch said. "I think it's in the best interest of the church and the community."

She said allowing a stadium to be led in prayer would infringe on the rights of some people.

"Even if it's student-led, some of their beliefs may not be in accord with others," she said. "There may be other persons of other faiths and I think we need to respect that."

She said small towns, like Eudora, are growing not only in size, but in diversity as well.

"Christians take for granted every where that we're in the majority," Knetsch said. "Christians may not always be in the majority. This town is not as insulated as it once was."

Smale said prayer will always be a part of the athletes' lives.

"I don't think you can separate a person's faith from what they do," he said. "I don't think athletics are any different from other aspects of our life.

"If people want to pray, they are going to pray and God's going to listen."

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