Private Christian School on Offense: High School Football Team Fights Back Against Prohibited Prayer at Championship Game

Cambridge Christian School appeals to U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

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October 23, 2017

ATLANTA, Ga.—Friday, October 21, First Liberty Institute and Greenberg Traurig, P.A. filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on behalf of their client, Cambridge Christian School (CCS)—a private Christian school in Tampa, Florida. In 2015, the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) forbade CCS from praying over the loudspeaker prior to the Citrus Bowl ahead of the state championship football game, even though both participating teams were Christian schools and had a tradition of prayer before games. In February, a federal district judge sided with the FHSAA.

“By banning two private Christian schools from praying over the loudspeaker before a football game while allowing other, non-religious messages to come across the same speaker, the FHSAA is telling high school kids that prayer in public is wrong,” said Jeremy Dys, Deputy General Counsel for First Liberty. “We hope the Eleventh Circuit will recognize this for what it is: an assault on the First Amendment and the censorship of religious speech—because it is religious—of two private, Christian schools.”

Prior to the 2015 championship game, CCS asked to continue their tradition of opening the game with prayer over the loudspeaker, a long-standing tradition that allows students on the field and their parents and fans in the stands to unite prior to kickoff. The FHSAA refused, suggesting that because the stadium was city-owned and the FHSAA a state agency, it would violate the Constitution to allow two private Christian schools to pray over a state-owned microphone for less than a minute.

“First, they told religious students that if you want to pray in school, then they have to attend a private, religious school. They did, but even then they have been told they cannot pray in public,” said Dys. “Where else do these religious students have to go? Must they now form their own league in order to exercise the rights guaranteed to them under the Constitution?”

To learn more, visit FirstLiberty.org/Cambridge.

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