September 21, 2012

University of Tennessee to Stop Sectarian Prayers at Football Games

UTennesseeGood news on the church-state front is not generally associated with the state of Tennessee. Even from my vantage point here in Mississippi, I often look at Tennessee's frequent assaults on science education with horror. But there has been a positive development from the state worth noting.

It appears that the University of Tennessee - Knoxville has decided to obey the law (i.e., Chaudhuri v. State of Tennessee) with regard to sectarian prayers before home football games. According to a letter from the chancellor to the Freedom From Religion Foundation in response to their complaint, the university will stop their practice of sectarian prayers over the loudspeaker.
“While we are pleased that UTK is moving in the right direction, the wisest policy is to drop prayer entirely,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Students, alums and fans come to the games to watch players, not to recite prayers! Prayer hosted by a public university is unnecessary, embarrassing and divisive. It’s just plain bad manners to knowingly inflict prayer on those of us who are not religious and believe nothing fails like prayer.”
Before you start celebrating, here's a different take on the matter. While the law does prohibit sectarian prayer, it sounds like the university may continue with non-sectarian prayer and that this is exactly what the plan to do. So, we appear to have a step in the right direction but only a step.

When cases like this hit the news, it is important to remind those objecting that nothing here stops individuals from praying to whichever god they prefer. We're only talking about blatantly sectarian prayers being read over a loudspeaker at a public university.

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