Student athletes discuss student-led prayers before games - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Student athletes discuss student-led prayers before games

ADVANCE, MO (KFVS) -

Is prayer at high school events right or wrong? Either way, a group is complaining about it in southeastern Kentucky.

Bell County High School has a custom of letting a Christian minister lead the crowd in a prayer before football games. However, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is stepping in. They're threatening to sue if the school does a prayer before the season opener on Friday night.

Here in the heartland, many student athletes say they lead prayers themselves and have no plans to stop. However, there’s a difference in what students are doing locally and what is happening in Bell County. Here, it’s the students leading the prayer, not the school, and the athletes themselves, have every right.

"One person may step up and say 'Hey, I want to lead us in a prayer today' and it usually comforts us before a big game,” a senior at Advance High School, Lexis Garner, said.

Garner is a volleyball player and cheerleader. She, like her teammates, is proud of her faith and isn't afraid to show it.

"It's just a way to bond with your team and bond with God,” Garner said.

Still, she knows public schools have rules to follow.

"Well, our teachers can't be included of course,” Garner said.

"It has to be student initiated and student-led,” Superintendent Dr. Stan Seiler said.

Dr. Seiler said they follow the "lemon test" when it comes to allowing student athletes to start their game in this way. That means, the activity as a whole, must have a secular purpose, it must not advance nor inhibit religious practice, and it must not result in an "excessive government entanglement" with religious affairs.

"I think prayer is a key-virtue,” Fellowship of Christian Athletes leader Brandon Greenlee said.

Greenlee said their organization gives students a place to express and practice their religion at school.

"We will come together, do a little bible study, say a prayer,” Greenlee said.

He said it's important for students to know what they can and can't do when it comes to their faith.

"If someone tries to come against us and tell us we can't pray, tell them I've got rights too. You've got rights, I've got rights,” Greenlee said.

Dr. Seiler said students choosing to pray expresses their passion and backs up their belief system.

"It makes us proud, it makes us have great confidence in those kids because we know that their center is someplace that is good and healthy,” Dr. Seiler said.

Dr. Seiler said since prayer and religion is a strong element in their community as a whole, many students do chose to pray.

He said just as school district leaders and staff cannot promote or lead prayer, they also cannot stop students from praying, as long as they follow the simple rules.

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