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She Prayed, They Cheered

Recently, in Houston, Texas, a 16-year-old girl backed down from her decision to lead in voluntary prayer before a high school football game. She had been elected by other students at the school to pray before each of the Santa Fe Indians’ home games. The problem was that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this year that student-led prayers were allowable at solemn events like graduations. However, the court ruled that prayers at football games were not of a “singularly serious nature.”

In response, school superintendent Richard Ownby warned that any student who led prayers at the Indians’ home opener would be disciplined as if they had cursed. With the threat of expulsion, the young girl decided not to lead in the prayer. She said, “When a student is told by the government that she may say anything except a prayer, and if she does pray, she will be disciplined as if she had cursed, it is just too much pressure.”

Fortunately, U.S. District Judge Sim Lake of Houston issued a temporary injunction barring the school district from punishing someone in this manner. He said that the guidelines that sought to restrict her “clearly prefer atheism over any religious faith.” In response to his ruling, another girl, a 17-year-old, with quivering lips stepped up to the microphone and asked God to bless the football game. As she completed the prayer, the crowd stood and cheered. (Richard Goble, Evolution and Columbine High School: A Formula for Disaster, November 15, 1999.)