More than 100 attendees of Ohio high school basketball game wore shirts that read 'Prayer Matters' on Friday in response to the school district's decision to ban a decades-long tradition of praying before athletic events following a complaint from an atheist group.
The West Branch School District had decided to suspend the practice of praying before games after receiving a letter of complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF).
The tradition has been in place for the past 30 years, but on Friday, it was replaced with a moment of silence for reflection, prayer or meditation.
Addie Morris, 18, said that the moment of silence is a step in the right direction, but it is still unconstitutional, noting that the Supreme Court had ruled that it violated the U.S. Constitution because it was a way to circumvent prayer.
FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert agreed with Morris and said that the best thing for the school to do was to just cease the action of prayer.
The complaint from the FFRF claimed that prayer was made over the loudspeaker before a high school basketball game.
"One of our complainants reports that at a recent varsity basketball game [Jan. 5] at West Branch High School, a prayer was delivered over the loudspeaker after the national anthem was played. It was reported that all in attendance were asked to remain standing for this prayer and that the prayer was Christian in nature," the letter from FFRF stated, according to The Vindicator.
The group contended that the prayers were "inappropriate and unconstitutional" and called on the school to "take immediate action to end the practice of prayer."
Superintendent Tim Saxton has sent letters informing parents that schools would stop praying until the district could get in contact with its lawyer. He noted that the decision is not final, but it will help satisfy what the district wants to do while it considers its options in respect to law, board policy and the deeply-rooted faith within the community.
Nick Everett, a member of the high school basketball team, said that everyone on the team wants to continue the practice of prayer.
He has partnered with teammate Nicholas Pidgeon, and Pidgeon's father, Brooke, to print T-shirts and hoodies that read "Prayer Matters" so that they could sell them to pay for a possible defense fund if needed.
"The love and grace of Jesus Christ should be in more places as opposed to less. [There are] threats all over the place of what could happen [if we continue to pray]," Brooke Pidgeon said.
He said that the FFRF is "almost bullying" the school into compliance because they likely know that the district has limited resources to fight a legal battle in court.