IFAS | Freedom Writer | January/February 1989 | prayer.html

Don't mix prayer and football

In a 2-1 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals (11th Circuit) the practice of leading opening prayers at public school football games was found to be unconstitutional.

The case was initiated four years ago by Doug Jager, then a freshman and member of the Douglas County High School, Georgia, marching band. Doug and his father, both agnostics, asked the school to discontinue the practice of public prayer before games. After their request was denied, they took their case to the American Civil Liberties Union, which successfully defended their suit.

Traditionally, local ministers offered the pre-game prayer. After the Jagers brought suit the school changed its policy and instituted an equal access plan to permit anyone, who was so moved, to lead the prayer. The Jagers rejected this alternative and pursued their case.

In 1987, a Federal district court determined that the school's equal access plan was constitutional. On January 3rd 1989 the Court of Appeals overruled the district court finding unconstitutional Douglas County High School's practice of pre-game prayers because they serve a religious purpose.

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.