By: Ri'Shawn Bassette | WALB News 10
September 18, 2019
VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) -- Lowndes High School is moving forward with its tradition of allowing students to pray at their home games, but with a slight change to make it all possible.
This decision comes just over a week after the system omitted the prayer before kick off.
A result that we’re told comes from the Freedom From Religion Foundation reaching out to the school system saying the weekly prayer was unconstitutional.
The Lowndes County Board of Education made the decision to introduce a new policy that will allow them to continue the student-led prayer.
“I’m hoping to see a big victory after we have a student-led prayer," said Lowndes County alumni Steve Nichols.
Nichols might not get everything he wants.
The Lowndes County Board of Education introduced the policy, which does allow student-led prayer, but is actually for student private speech in general.
“It’s really alarming that the district decided to do this in this way, to continue imposing Christian prayer upon everyone who goes to football games on Friday," said Chris Line.
Line is an attorney for the Freedom from Religion Foundation.
“I presume we’ll see that every single message is going to be a prayer," said Line.
The school system employees said that is not necessarily true.
The policy is expected to allow for a student-led prayer, but also a song, a poem, words of inspiration and other forms of speech.
Nichols said he thinks this response was better than what he originally had in mind.
“I believe what should have been done is that letter, taken it and thrown it in the trash and us keep going until somebody sued us to stop us and fight the battle that way," said Nichols.
Nichols said stopping the prayer would have infringed on their freedom to express their religion.
“This is South Georgia values," said Nichols. “It may not work for other communities across the United States, but we know in our heart that this was the pulse of our community.”
A pulse that Line said could still result in legal action in the long run.
“It seems pretty clear here that the board is trying to manufacture a way for them to continue having Christian prayer before every game but under the guise of a student-led sort of system," said Line.
Lowndes Board of Education members said that students will have the opportunity to participate in a student-led prayer at this Friday’s home game.
The required second reading of the new policy will take place at the work session board meeting on Oct. 7.