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.

  • a reader

    This is what my Arkansas high school did and probably still does. As part of the marching band, I listened to prayers before every football game, home and away (because every other school did it too) from 1990-1994. We (the band) also had teacher-led prayer before every halftime show; he knew and stated that it was entirely illegal but didn’t care. My school’s entire administration was (and is) made of born-again Christians.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001627228091 Alexander Ryan

    So they pretty much sat around and tossed around ideas as to how to stick it to the man and bypass the law. I commend their commitment to the magical sky daddy. 

  • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

    Someone should sneak in a Q’uranic  call to prayer over the loudspeakers. Watch the Christians completely lose their shit.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

      They most likely wouldn’t make it out alive.

  • NlueSub

    I’m fine with this as long as Muslim and atheist students also have the oppurtunity to say prayers to Allah or FSM.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

      But that will never, ever, ever, ever, ever happen and did I type ever?

  • Isilzha

    So, students can say whatever they “want” until one says some things the admins don’t want to be said.  Then what happens?

  • http://www.facebook.com/usman.bello.125 Usman Bello

    Why does QB Jesus have a tail?

  • http://www.facebook.com/nightwng2000 Andrew Rhodes

    This is another  form of the “passover protest”.  Instead of abiding by EVERYONE is equal and doesn’t HAVE to face “come out of the closet” through the “moment of silence”, then you MUST abide by “if you’re too afraid to come out of the closet because of the verbal, mental, physical, and/or sexual abuse you might suffer for being one of the ‘minority’, then remain silent while others have the Freedom as the ‘majority’ to speak or face the potential repercussions of such abuse which the school board and other school authority will ignore, advocate, support, and even take part in by actually speaking YOUR views during this period”.

  • Aaron Scoggin

    Well, just do what we did with the nativity scenes. Kids can get up there and say whatever they want, whether it be a prayer to Jesus or a prayer to FSM. 

  • Wemmons

    they teach them to do this, yet they probably aren’t teaching them science.

  • Mjy1945

    It costs Christians nothing to invent new ways to get around the law, so they’ll just keep on inventing.

    In this current case, the Christian children (encouraged by their parents) will all decide to say the same prayer during the three minute period and if any other voices heard, the Christians will just shout louder.

    In a hundred years from now they will still be saying prayers in American schools.

    • Randomfactor

       Just to Allah instead.  And of course, you’d be fine with that.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    I have doubts that the students won’t be encouraged, led, or directed, especially if the anticipated prayerful outcome doesn’t manifest. The solution, however, is fair, despite the potential for alienating those students with unpopular / minority opinions about religion. Treating alternative ideas, and those who hold them, in an unwelcome way is the fault of people, whether they are led by government-funded school faculty or not.

  • Rwlawoffice

    Perfectly legal solution. Students have the right of religious expression and the school can accommodate it.

    But why the snarky assumption that the school cares less about teaching then they do about prayer in school? I thought you based your comments on evidence and rational thinking bthat just seems like an unfounded assumption meant only to insult.

    • John

       “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.

      Try again.

      • Rwlawoffice

        So all born again Christians are not interested in education? What a stupid and uneducated thing to say. Did you know that most of the major universities in this country were started by Christians- Harvard, Princeton, Norte Dame, etc…

        That ignorant generalization is typical of folks who are intolerant of the Christan faith.

        • RobertoTheChi

          Oh jesus-fucking-christ on a stick.

          • Rwlawoffice

            Hurts when the facts get in the way of your theme doesn’t it

            • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

              They’re spending their time on finding ways to deceive others so that they can broadcast illegal religious propaganda over their loudspeakers at football games. They say so themselves.  There are no assumptions involved here; their actions and their words agree.  When someone tells you who he is, it’s usually smart to believe him.

            • RobertoTheChi

              They’re obviously concerned about sneaking in prayer. They should be that concerned about education (especially science).

              And what facts are getting in my way? I think you must be referring to yourself.

        • Coyotenose

           People who make prayer in schools a major focus historically do so at the expense of education. Hurts when history, including current events, get in the way of your ignorant persecution narrative, doesn’t it? Jesus, read a book.

    • skinnercitycyclist

       How about because they are spending ANY TIME AT ALL on this kind of BS?

      Don’t pray in my school and I won’t think in your church…

    • Ibis3

      “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives.

      “They are following the letter of the law (maybe), but they are certainly flouting the spirit of the law. And for what? So they can pray like hypocrites and be seen of men?

      Didn’t your rabbi hate that shit?

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    Texas care about education? Ba ha ha ha 

  • Coyotenose

    2 Corinthians 3:6 has something to say that applies well to these people and their spiritual desecration of the Constitution.

  • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

    Learn the lyrics to “My God, How the Money Rolls In“, kiddies. It’s amazing how well an a cappella group can carry with just a little practice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

    IANAL, but generally, if you openly state that your disclaimer states the opposite of your actual intent, you’ve rendered it worthless.  That is, if you don’t tell your story consistently, you’re considered (legally) to have admitted that it isn’t true.
    I tend to think they might have gotten away with the 3-minute free speech free-for-all if the Superintendent hadn’t piped up with “….which is actually a prayer time, but we plan to lie about that, so keep it to yourselves!”

  • Jonathan S Shumaker

    Does anyone know if there is any representation of Jewish, Hindu, or athiest beliefs present in the student body?  In the town I’m from, most people believe that religious diversity depends on whether you’re Presbyterian, Lutheran, Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, or Methodist.

  • CanadianNihilist

    I think giving teenagers a “say-whatever-the-hell-you-want” before all home games. free pass is not going to end well. for anybody.


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