Florida lawmakers have introduced a proposal that would allow schools to play prayers over public-address systems prior to sporting events.
According to the local CBS affiliate, the bill is part of education bill HB 7103. If it passes, the Florida High School Athletic Association would offer schools 30 seconds for opening remarks, including prayers, prior to games.
“The FHSAA may not prohibit prayer or otherwise control, monitor, or review the content of the opening remarks, if any,” the proposal said. “Prior to the opening remarks, the public-address announcer shall announce that the content of any opening remarks by a participating school is not endorsed by and does not reflect the views and opinions of the FHSAA.”
According to Florida Politics, negotiations between the House and Senate over the bill appeared to break down Monday.
The proposal stems from a 2015 state championship football game between Cambridge Christian School of Tampa and University Christian School of Jacksonville. The FHSAA denied requests from both schools to use the public-address system for a pre-game prayer.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported that Cambridge Christian filed a lawsuit, arguing that the FHSAA violated First Amendment rights. The case was dismissed in 2017, but the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that ruling in 2019.
The FHSAA has argued that pre-game prayers over the loudspeaker would have been viewed as “government speech.”
According to the Northwest Florida Daily News, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran has called on the FHSAA to “conduct an immediate review of its policies and procedures to ensure religious expression is permitted to the greatest extent possible under the law.”