Wednesday, September 28, 2016

State High School Athletic Association Sued Over Its Refusal To Allow Broadcast of Pre-Game Prayers

In Tampa, Florida yesterday, a Christian high school filed a lawsuit in federal district court against the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) which refused to allow the school to use the loudspeaker at a state football championship game for pre-game prayer.  The complaint (full text) in Cambridge Christian School v. Florida High School Athletic Association, (MD FL, filed 9/27/2016), alleges that both Cambridge Christian and its opponent at the game, another private Christian school, wanted to lead students, teacher and fans in communal prayer before the game.  FHSAA, the state agency that supervises and regulates interscholastic athletics for both public and private schools in Florida, refused on the ground that as a state agency, it could not legally grant permission of this kind, especially since the stadium in which the championship game was being played is a public facility paid for mostly by tax dollars. The teams ended up praying together on the field, but could not be heard by spectators and fans.

The school contends that the refusal to allow it to use the loudspeaker for prayer, while it is available for non-religious messages and cheer leading before, during and after the game, violates its rights under the free exercise, free speech and establishment clauses of the state and federal constitutions as well as under the Florida Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Tampa Bay Times reports on the filing of the lawsuit.