Tennessee cheerleaders defy ban on school prayer, lead fans in pre-game Lord’s Prayer
After receiving a reminder from the American Civil Liberties Union that it is unconstitutional to hold school-sanctioned prayer over the loud-speaker before football games, a group of Oneida High School cheerleaders decided to use the moment of silence to lead the fans in a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.
The director of schools in Oneida, Ann Sexton, said that “we were advised to stop the practice” of having the public address announcer lead the fans in the Lord’s Prayer, and that the constitutionally acceptable alternative was a moment of silence.
That was not enough for the Oneida cheerleaders, however. “We need prayer for so many reasons especially in our community now and the troubles we face every day,” one of the cheerleaders told WATE.
So, she continued, “during the moment of silence all the cheerleaders came together and recited the Lord’s Prayer. In that moment the atmosphere was kind of great because it was nothing but heads bowed, and you heard the Lord’s Prayer ring over the football field.”
The school’s public address announcer, Kevin Acres, told WATE that the decision to institute the moment of silence “wasn’t our decision or the school board’s, it was pressure from outside groups.” In addition to the ACLU, the Freedom From Religious Foundation also sent the district a letter reminding it to protect the constitutional rights of its non-religious students.
But Acres is undeterred. “The majority of people in this area want to have prayer before a ball game, and I don’t think it’s right for a minority out away from here dictates what we do here,” he said, before adding that the ban may have had the unintended consequence of making the pre-game environment even more religious.
“Where you had one person saying a prayer over the PA, now you’ve got hundreds maybe a thousand people saying it together,” he said.
Watch a video on the cheerleaders via WATE below.