The Foundation alleges that a student within the school district complained about the tradition.
A letter sent from the Foundation is reported to have instructed the school district to stop the prayer, that was always said over the intercom by a local pastor. The letter went on to allege that the school district had committed a “serious and flagrant violation of the First Amendment.”
This has concerned local fans. A Middlesboro Daily News Facebook friend expressed her outrage, “I wanna know who is behind not letting Ray say a prayer before the game... without God we are all in trouble.”
Upon receiving the letter, Superintendent George Thompson took it to the school board’s attorney, Shea Yoakum. She then submitted the letter to Amy Peabody, Kentucky Department of Education Attorney.
Peabody recommended that the district stop the tradition and cited previous court cases in which the court ruled that prayer on public school property is in violation of the First Amendment.
“As distressing as this is, we chose to follow her (Peabody) recommendation at this time. Our hard-held Christian belief in Bell County is the fabric that makes our community special,” said Thompson.
George Thompson went on to say, “I have always taken the position that we will continue the prayer until someone makes us stop.”
According to Thompson, instead of the prayer, a pre-game moment of silence may be the new tradition at Bell County high school athletic events.
According to their website, FFRF is “a state-church watchdog based in Madison, Wis., is the nation's largest group of atheists, agnostics and freethinkers.”
The group touts that they have over 16,000 members and was founded in 1978 with the purpose of keeping religion and government separate.