North Pike football fans may notice a change in the routine when the Jaguars host Purvis tonight. A prayer will not precede the contest.
The North Pike School District will no longer conduct group prayers at school-sanctioned events due in part to a Sept. 23 letter from the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom from Religion Foundation.
“We are writing to outline the current state of law regarding prayers at public schools, including athletic games and graduation ceremonies,” the letter reads.
The letter touts the organization’s success in ending prayers at Desoto County High School football games in August, and claims it is receiving continued complaints across the state and is concerned “that such violations may be commonplace in Mississippi.”
Additionally, the letter cites several Supreme Court cases to back up claims that “prayers at school-sponsored events are an unconstitutional endorsement of religion” and “voluntary attendance by students is no defense.”
“This country was founded in part on the need to keep religion and government separate,” the letter reads. “This principle is all the more important as our collective diversity grows. It is also paramount as parents are increasingly concerned about violence, bullying and hate crimes in public schools.”
The North Pike school board did not vote on the issue at Thursday’s meeting. Superintendent Dr. Ben Cox said the matter will be handled administratively, pending an opinion from Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood’s office.
“North Pike will suspend prayer at sporting events and other functions,” Cox said. “The school board doesn’t agree. Students, patrons and parents will still have the individual right to prayer.
“It’s not a violation of federal law to have prayer at an event as long as the school does not initiate it. We encourage our patrons to express that right of religious freedom.”