Does Your Board Pray?

By Chuck Waggoner

I recently attended a high school basketball game in Texas. To my surprise, a voice over the intercom asked the audience to stand for a brief moment of silent prayer before the school band played “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The gymnasium crowd rose as a single entity, and the brief moment of silence lasted for 30 seconds (I timed it).

Is 30 seconds a brief moment?

The definition of “brief” is beside the point to this obvious breach of the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court in the case of Santa Fe v. Jane Doe. School-sponsored prayer at an athletic event is not acceptable, and the school board and administration should know that they are in violation of the law and should stop the practice. This moment of silent prayer was a manifestation of government policy. The audience was there to support and watch basketball, not to attend a worship service. It does not matter if everyone in that gymnasium was a proponent of prayer; the law was broken.

I don’t know for sure, but I’d guess this particular Texas district also opens its school board meetings with an invocation of some type. From my research as a professor at Eastern New Mexico University, I have found that a significant number of Texas school boards and 25 percent of New Mexico’s school boards open meetings with a verbal or silent prayer.

As a 30-year administrator in Illinois, I know that many school boards in that state, particularly in small, rural communities, open meetings with a prayer as well.

Is this a problem?

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