The Cambridge Christian School of Tampa, Fla., has filed a federal lawsuit against the state high school athletic association for refusing to allow them to broadcast a pre-game prayer over a loudspeaker.
Prior to competing for the 2A state championship last December, Cambridge had plans to use the sound system at Camping World Stadium to lead a prayer. The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) denied the request, saying they could not legally grant permission as a “state actor” operating in a public facility.
So, when Cambridge Christian and University Christian Schools took the field, the teams prayed — but the fans in the stands couldn’t hear.
“Thus, by denying access to the loudspeaker,” the suit states, “the FHSAA denied the students, parents and fans in attendance the right to participate in the players’ prayer or to otherwise come together in prayer as one Christian community.”
Working with attorneys and a religious liberty advocacy group, Cambridge filed the suit on Tuesday. They claim that the incident violated the school’s first amendment rights, and are looking to change FHSAA policy to a ”content neutral” policy.
“This is a case about the restriction of a Christian school’s private speech through a policy and practice that discriminates between religious and secular speech,” said Adam Foslid, an attorney representing the school in the case. “The Constitution requires a government policy of neutrality toward private religious speech — one that neither endorses nor censors such speech.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, as long as the activity is student-led, prayer is allowed even at public athletic events. Past Supreme Court rulings have said that school officials cannot, however, be involved in promoting religion.
Tim Euler, the head of Cambridge Christian, said that prohibiting prayer sends the wrong message.
“By banning us from praying over the loudspeaker, the FHSAA told our students that prayer is something bad and should be forbidden,” Euler said. “We want our students to know that prayer is good and a fundamental constitutional right that should be defended.”
You can read the lawsuit here.