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Meet Cambridge Christian School

For over 50 years, Cambridge Christian School (CCS), has educated and equipped students in Tampa, Florida. Their faith-based mission is clear:

To glorify God in all that we do; to demonstrate excellence at every level of academic, athletic and artistic involvement; to develop strength of character; and to serve the local and global community.

Tim Euler, the Head of School of CCS, said, “In the football program, we are working to raise godly young men that can make a difference in the world. Prayer is a big part of that. It’s central to who we are as a school and a team.”

One way the school administrators teach students to “glorify God” is through prayer—including at their sporting events. Since the inception of the football program, the school has had a tradition of praying over the loudspeaker before football games. Before kick-off, players, coaches, and fans will pause as a student, parent, or faculty member offers a short prayer.

FHSAA Denies Schools’ Request for Pre-Game Prayer

In the fall of 2015, the CCS Lancers won their way to the state football championship for the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) 2A division. The game was scheduled for Friday, December 4, 2015 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida, where the Lancers would face off against University Christian School.

Since both of the Christian schools had a tradition of pre-game prayer, CCS asked for permission to offer a prayer over the loudspeaker before kick-off at the championship game. The FHSAA denied the request, forbidding the schools from praying over the loudspeaker. The association argued that somehow this private prayer could be viewed as an endorsement of religion since the Christian schools would be praying on government property.

The football players, coaches and fans were devastated by the FHSAA’s decision.

Jacob Enns said, “We were really excited to play in the championship game. It’s been our tradition to pray ever since I’ve been on the team. But then they said we couldn’t pray and our tradition was ruined. It was so disappointing.”

First Liberty Legal Action

On January 26, 2016, First Liberty attorneys sent a demand letter to FHSAA behalf of Cambridge Christian School, arguing that the FHSAA violated CCS’s rights as a religious institution.

“By banning their customary pre-game prayer over the loudspeaker, the FHSAA prohibited the students’ and teachers’ free exercise of religion,” said Hiram Sasser, Deputy Chief Counsel for First Liberty. “That is a violation of the First Amendment.”

First Liberty’s letter explains that, if uncontested, FHSAA’s demands would severely limit the religious liberty of the thousands of students, teachers, and administrators of Florida’s religious schools.

On September 26, 2016, First Liberty attorneys, along with concerned parents and teachers, appeared at an FHSAA board meeting and asked the FHSAA to adopt a content neutral policy to respect religious freedom. The FHSAA declined to take action, so on September 27, First Liberty Institute along with volunteer law firm Greenberg Traurig filed a lawsuit against the FHSAA. Read the lawsuit.

“By banning the pre-game prayer over the loudspeaker, the FHSAA sent a message to these students that prayer is wrong and something you should be ashamed of. That is dangerous and unconstitutional,” said Sasser.

On February 3, 2017, a Tampa district magistrate issued a “report and recommendation,” stating the two Christian schools cannot pray over the loudspeaker at the Citrus Bowl. Read the report and recommendation

 “First they told us public schools cannot pray over the loudspeaker. Now they say two private Christian schools cannot pray over the loudspeaker. When will this assault on free speech stop?” Sasser asked. “We will appeal this ruling and continue to fight against this incredible assault on the First Amendment.”

On June 20, 2017, attorneys with First Liberty filed a Notice of Appeal before the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit on behalf of Cambridge Christian School.

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release: January 26, 2016

Contact: Kassie Dulin, Direct: 972-941-4575, Cell: 214.542.4334, Email: kdulin@libertyinstitute.org

STUDENTS’ PRAYER PROHIBITED AT FLORIDA HIGH SCHOOL CHAMPIONSHIP FOOTBALL GAME

Liberty Institute sends demand letter to Florida High School Athletic Association

Tampa, FL, January 26, 2016 – Today, Liberty Institute sent a demand letter to the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) on behalf of Cambridge Christian School (CCS), a private Christian school in Tampa, Florida. Read demand letter.

The school was scheduled to face off against University Christian School at the 2015 2A State Championship Football Game, held at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. Since both schools have a tradition of praying before the games, CCS asked the FHSAA for permission to offer a prekickoff prayer over the loud speaker. The FHSAA forbade the schools from praying at the championship game, arguing that somehow the private prayer could be viewed as an endorsement of religion since the Christian schools would be praying on government property.

Liberty Institute contends that no average person could watch two Christian football teams praying and interpret that as government endorsement of religion. Liberty Institute attorneys explain that the FHSAA engaged in unlawful discrimination and violated the fundamental religious liberty rights of the students and administrators of CCS by refusing the school’s request to pray.

Jacob Enns, the kicker for the CCS football team, says, “We were really excited to play in the championship game. But then we showed up and they wouldn’t let us pray. It’s been our tradition ever since I’ve been on the team, and our tradition was ruined. It made me wonder, is it wrong to pray?”

CCS Head of School, Tim Euler, said, “In the football program, we are working to raise godly young men that can make a difference in the world. Prayer is a big part of that. It’s central to who we are as a school and a team.”

Jeremy Dys, Senior Counsel for Liberty Institute, says, “By banning prayer, the FHSAA sent a message to these kids that prayer is wrong and something you should be ashamed of. They are on the wrong side of the law. We are committed to restoring the rights of these students— and all students across the State of Florida—to pray without government censorship.”

Read more about the case: libertyinstitute.org/cambridge

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About Liberty Institute Liberty Institute is the largest nonprofit legal organization in the nation dedicated solely to defending religious liberty for all Americans. To arrange an interview, contact Kassie Dulin, Director of Legal Communications for Liberty Institute. Email: kdulin@libertyinstitute.org, Direct: 972-941-9575, Cell: 214-542-4334.

Liberty Institute is the largest nonprofit legal organization in the nation dedicated solely to defending religious liberty for all Americans. To arrange an interview, contact Kassie Dulin, Director of Legal Communications for Liberty Institute. Email: kdulin@libertyinstitute.org, Direct: 972-941-9575, Cell: 214-542-4334.

To arrange an interview, contact Kassie Dulin, Director of Legal Communications for Liberty Institute. Email: kdulin@libertyinstitute.org, Direct: 972-941-9575, Cell: 214-542-4334.

To download this press release, please click here.

Cambridge Christian State Championship Teaser

Video Credit: Polyphonic Image, courtesy of First Liberty

Photo Credit: Beth Dare Photography, courtesy of First Liberty