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Barb Wire

Tampa Football Team Sues to Pray, Media Still Don’t Score a Touchdown


This may be high school sports week on GR. At midday, my colleague Bobby Ross Jr. looked at a boys soccer team in Arizona that didn’t want to let a girl onto the team. My focus today is on a high school football team in Tampa that has been told not to pray over stadium loudspeakers.

Cambridge Christian School this week made good on its threat to sue for the right to lead public prayer before a game. In December, the Florida High School Athletic Association denied the Cambridge Lancers the mic and speakers at Orlando’s Citrus Bowl, even though they were facing another Christian school – University Christian of Jacksonville. Mainstream media coverage varied greatly, as I wrote in a January GR post.

Unfortunately, they did little better this time around.

The fracas turns on whether the FHSAA, as a “state actor” – commissioned by the state legislature to regulate high school sports – is responsible for speech flowing through public-address systems at stadiums like the Citrus Bowl (renamed Camping World Stadium). If so, they argue, they can’t allow religious talk like prayer.

Cambridge Christian, as you can guess, is standing on the First Amendment rights of free speech and exercise of religion. They argue also that the athletic association is doing the opposite of the First Amendment by opposing religious free speech.

In January, the Tampa Tribune did much better than the Tampa Bay Times. Now that the Timeshas bought the Trib, their better side seems to have taken over – at least with this story:

First Liberty filed the lawsuit along with lawyers from the firm of Greenberg Traurig. On Tuesday, attorneys held a news conference with Tim Euler, head of school for Cambridge Christian.

“I believe in our Constitution,” Euler said. “I believe in our government. I believe that in time of need, we pray. And to say a prayer of thanksgiving prior to an athletic event should not be any different than Congress opening up their meetings in prayer.”

Prayer is not banned at public athletic events, as long as the activity is student led. Supreme Court rulings have stated that school officials cannot be involved in promoting religion or establishing set times for prayers during events.

Another virtue: Directly quoting attorney Jeremy Dys of the First Liberty Institute. These days, media often settle for a statement or email…

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