After The American Civil Liberties Union in Tennessee demanded Oneida High School stop calling for prayers over the sound system a few years ago, the school’s administration found a way around the order to retain the pre-game prayer. That practice continued up until this season when Oneida High School started to feel pressurized from outside groups to stop that religious tradition, which is when the prayer was replaced with a moment of silence.
However, the cheerleaders felt that the moment of silence was not sufficient and so co-captain of the cheerleading squad Asia Canada decided to do something about it.
“He called for the moment of silence, and I started off, ‘Our Father who art in heaven’ and everyone joined in,” said Canada.
Now, the one-time thing has become a tradition all over again, with the cheerleaders leading prayer, not over the sound system but with their own voices.
On September 19, Canada and her co-captain Alley Myers were interviewed by Elizabeth Hasselback, during which the duo said that their community is in need of prayer, even more so before a football game.
“We pray for the safety of each and every player out there, and the cheerleaders, and the fans for their drive home,” Myers told Hasselbeck. “I just feel that it (prayer) needs to be in football games.”
When Oneida High School’s director Ann Sexton was contacted, she agreed to offer a statement.
“We received letters over the last couple of years from different organizations about broadcasting prayer at any ball game is unconstitutional,” Sexton wrote. “This summer I attended a law retreat where they specifically gave us direction not to have prayer at the games.”
Quite unexpectedly, the incident started to garner national attention, with the cheerleading squad receiving support from various quarters. Someone even designed $15 t-shirts saying ‘Keep Calm and Pray On,’ the proceeds of which will benefit members of the cheerleading squad at Oneida High School.
Apart from ACLU, the Freedom From Religious Foundation, too, sent a letter to the school administration, asking them to protect the constitutional rights of its non-religious students.
But, according to the school’s public address announcer Kevin Acres, the majority of people in the area want to have prayers before a football game and it is not fair that their demand be ignored because of what a minority community wants. He also suggested that the initial ban may have led to the unintended consequence of the pre-game mood growing even more religious.
“Where you had one person saying a prayer over the PA, now you’ve got hundreds maybe a thousand people saying it together,” he said.
Photo Credits: The Count