Texas School District Finds Way to Promote Christian Prayer at Football Games

Yet another school district in Texas has found a way to say Christian prayers before home football games. This time, the Center Independent School District is at the center of the controversy.

Jesus is our quarterback

Recently, the superintendent asked that prayers not be said over the loudspeakers before games because — surprise! — that’s illegal:

“There are two reasons [to stop the prayer] — one, our school district attorney gave us legal advice and said ‘Stop immediately,’ and the other thing is when you know a law is being broken, whether you agree with that law or not, you have to abide by the law, you just have to,” [Center ISD Superintendent James ] Hockenberry said. “So with that information, I made the decision right then and there.”

In other words: “Our attorney told us it was illegal, so I decided to do the right thing! Even though I would totally break the law if I knew we wouldn’t get sued.”

But now, Hockenberry has come up with a solution that would allow students the chance to pray before a game without running afoul of the law. He’s instituting a three-minute moment of “say-whatever-the-hell-you-want” before all home games… and if a prayer happens to break out, so be it:

They’ll have three minutes,” Hockenberry continued. “You can’t call it a student-led prayer but it’s a student expression where they can say whatever they want. That’s the way I understand. The kids are going to pray but we can’t call it that. We’re going to have to do a disclaimer. We’re going to have to do a few little things that law requires us to do but then the student will have up to three minutes to kind of say what they want. Obviously they can’t use obscene language and they [can't] defame.

The school board approved of the new policy earlier last week.

What’s scary about all this is how intent the administration and school board members are to make sure prayer has a place in the public school district:

“All eight people… including the Superintendent, are born again Christians. So we are all as committed to prayer in schools as anybody,” said Dr. Dixon Golden, Center ISD School Board President.

If only these school board members in Texas cared as much about education as they did about Jesus…

But we can’t expect them to do the right thing. They’re only the leaders of a massive school district, after all.

I’m curious how successful a legal challenge could be since they’re making it explicitly clear that the “moment of silence” is really just a way for the students to recite a Christian prayer. They’re not even being subtle about it.

I’d hate to be a non-Christian student or athlete in this district, though. The administration and school board members are making it explicitly clear that Jews, Hindus, atheists, and everyone else who doesn’t buy into the Christian fiction are not welcome in this community.

(Thanks to Brian for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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