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Group pressures Sissonville High to stop pre-game prayers

SISSONVILLE, W.Va. -- Sissonville High School has stopped offering a prayer before football games after a national organization told school officials the practice is unconstitutional.Many students and parents don't agree with the decision.Principal Ron Reedy said about half of the school's 650 students wore purple on Friday to show their support for the pre-game prayer.Fans on the Sissonville side recited the Lord's Prayer after the national anthem was played at Friday night's football game."No one is suggesting to the students that they cannot pray at their leisure," Reedy told the Charleston Daily Mail. "We are saying as an institution, we can't offer prayer."Crystal Smith, the mother of two Sissonville students, said the prayers do not promote a particular religion."This is who we are. We're not trying to push our beliefs on anybody else," Smith told the newspaper.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Ron Duerring last week saying the pre-game prayer must be stopped. The letter cites five U.S. Supreme Court decisions regarding mandatory or school-led prayer at school events.The pre-game prayers often were offered "in Jesus' name," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the organization."We are not a Christian nation, this is not a Christian school district," Gaylor told the newspaper. "Football games ... are not Christian football games."Reedy said the school invited pastors from local churches to deliver a prayer, either before or after the national anthem."The prayer was for the safety of our players and the other teams' players," Reedy said. "It was not an evangelical thing at all."Duerring told Reedy in an email obtained by the newspaper that if there were pre-game prayers they had to stop.Reedy said he halted the pre-game prayers when he was informed about the issue. He said he knew prayer at graduation was not allowed but he was unaware of a constitutional issue with a pre-game prayer.
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