Football returned to Santa Fe High School near Houston, Texas, but the tradition of pre-game prayer did not.
Two months after the U.S. Supreme Court banned high schools from amplifying school-sanctioned pre-game prayer, a court-defying effort by protesters to recite “The Lord’s Prayer” fell short of expected numbers Friday night.
An estimated 200 of the crowd of 4,500 broke into prayer at Santa Fe High School, the school that spawned the June 19 decision from the high court.
Thousands of people had expected to recite the prayer at the home opener between Santa Fe and neighboring rival Hitchcock as part of an organized No Pray No Play movement.
“It would have been an awesome experience to be in the stands and to be able to hear you know that many people saying ‘The Lord’s Prayer,’” said Becky Frye, mother of a Santa Fe player. “And I think it’s a shame that it didn’t get to happen.”
Prayer Falls Short of Prediction
The tool that shut down the effort, prayer fans said, was the school-owned public address system the Supreme Court said could not be used to broadcast a prayer.
When the appointed moment to pray arrived, the Santa Fe faithful were slapped a double insult: the announcer broke right into his introduction of the visiting team.
“It was obvious that the announcer jumped right in after the anthem, and then it was too late to do anything,” said Frye. “If people could have appointed a leader for every section, we could have overcome the speaker.”
Poor planning was also a problem, others said.
“People didn’t get it together,” said Sheila Briscoe, another Santa Fe team booster.
Nonetheless, the group who planned the synchronized pre-game prayer declared the event a success.
“We weren’t trying to get everybody on the same line,” said No Pray No Play spokesman David Newsome. “We didn’t come here and say we were going to orchestrate this thing one-two-three like they’re doing out there on the field with the band.”
No Pray No Play, from Temple, led a statewide movement which had mixed success around Texas.
A large majority of fans, some of whom wore No Pray No Play shirts, were from the area. Six people with No Pray No Play traveled hundreds of miles from Temple to Santa Fe, and about two dozen others walked about 10 miles from Hitchcock. Two of them hauled wooden crosses.
Prayer Movements Abound
Elsewhere in the United States, others were leading similar prayer movements in recent weeks.
East of Texas, Terry Schultz was among those who led prayers at high school football games in several states. Shultz is a member of the Reformation Presbyterian Church, in Hendersonville, N.C., and he says the Supreme Court declared war on America with its decision.
“I think it’s that kind of determined effort on the part of the judiciary in America to perform a religious lobotomy upon America that is really of the most concern to the average family man, trying to raise kids to give them hope,” Schultz said.
“We are just blue-collar, white-collar, working folks who are very concerned what we’ve seen since the ’60s and since prayer was taken out of school,” he continued. “We saw test scores plummet and they’ve never gotten back. We’ve seen teenage suicide go out of reach, all the addictions and the problems, the Columbine tragedy.”
He says he sees prayer as a healing force on these social ills
Prayer at Other Games