Opelika High pre-game prayer changes causing controversy

Updated: Sep. 14, 2019 at 2:15 PM CDT
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OPELIKA, Ala. (WSFA) - Opelika High School is no longer allowing prayer over the loudspeaker prior to home football games, instead there will be a moment of silence.

This comes after the Opelika City Schools Board of Education received a letter from the Freedom from Religion Foundation saying that an Opelika student felt alienated after hearing a prayer over the loudspeaker prior to a game.

Some local residents think the change is fair.

“There may be some kids there or parents there who are not part of the Christian belief. I just imagine how they feel,” said Opelika resident Sammie Gay.

Others disagree saying the prayer didn’t push a certain set of beliefs.

“It was never anything overtly Christian. It was always, ‘Hey God please keep our players safe from injury, help the fans and the players to have good sportsmanship, everyone have a good night.' It was nothing offensive,” said Trinity United Methodist Church Youth Pastor Steve Bass.

The letter continued, stating that prayer over the loudspeaker before games is illegal.

OCS Superintendent Mark Neighbors released a statement on behalf of the school system. It reads, “We recognize that the United States of America is a nation of laws and we will abide by the current law. Our students are allowed to pray, but our coaches are not allowed to participate.”

Now community members are taking a stand. During Friday night's hope football game, fans and students recited the Lord's Prayer aloud during the moment of silence.

“Yes, the other student felt targeted and alienated because of it, but now you’re taking it away from the majority, so now we’re having to go about it a different way,” said Opelika High School student Phoebe Darcey.

“I just encourage people to stand up for what you believe in instead of caving in and bowing down. You may lose the fight, but you never know unless you fight,“ said Bass.

Current laws regarding school prayer are being reviewed by the Opelika City Schools Board attorney to confirm what is allowable for students.

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