High school students respond to praying at school debate - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

High school students respond to praying at school debate

Herrin High School Students observe game film on Thursday (Source: Loreto Cruz KFVS) Herrin High School Students observe game film on Thursday (Source: Loreto Cruz KFVS)
HERRIN, IL (KFVS) -

After an assistant football coach in Washington State was placed on leave for leading his players in prayer, his story has stirred national debate.

The school in WA is worried the prayers will open it up to a lawsuit for violating the separation of church and state.

Since Kennedy was placed on leave, he has found support from many on Social Media including G.O.P. presidential candidates Ben Carson and Donald Trump.

In his 14 years as a Herrin High School football coach, Jason Karnes said he has always supported the practice, and has never received a complaint.

“To give us strength for the game,” explained Herrin Senior Trey Stevenson. “Guide us to try to grow up to be good young men.”

Although their Thursday night football practice was rained out, the team met in the school’s press box to watch game film, and prep for round two of the playoffs.

 “We’re just excited to be able to play another week,” explained Herrin athlete Gavin Jordan, “and hopefully we can make it count.”

While students say the same athletic standards are set for every player on the team, that principle doesn’t apply to in-school religious practices.

“Nobody is forced to participate,” said Stevenson, who is also an unofficial prayer-leader on the team. “Everybody just kind of does it, because I think that everybody just happens to be on the same page on this team, but if someone were to say you know, I’m not really comfortable with this, we would be like okay, we respect that. We respect everybody in our locker room and on our team.”

Following 1971 Supreme Court Case Lemon v. Kurtzman, many schools rely on the “lemon test” to resolve arguments like this one.

The case established the activity (in this case, a prayer) “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.

The Herrin Tigers will play Taylorville this weekend in round two of their division’s playoffs.

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