Prayer okay, but on your own, FHSAA tells teams
Two Christian high school football teams were upset Friday when told they couldn't broadcast a religious prayer over the Citrus Bowl loudspeakers before their District 2-A football championship game.
The head of Tampa's Cambridge Christian School told Bay News 9 that they had prayed publicly before all their other games this season, without problems. But the FHSAA remained adamant that the Orange Bowl as a public, taxpayer funded facility made it off limits for the prayer.
That did not mean teams, fans or others couldn't pray, though, FHSAA spokesman Corey Sobers told one irate correspondent who demanded to know what right the governing board had to limit teams' free speech and exercise of religion. He wrote, in an email that circulated among the FHSAA oversight review panel:
"The FHSAA certainly is understanding of a situation where two Christian schools would like to conduct a prayer. The two schools are allowed to pray on their own. The FHSAA is not prohibiting either school from conducting prayer.
"However, the issue is when the schools requested to conduct the prayer over the public address system.
"The Citrus Bowl is a public facility, funded by taxpayer dollars and as such, that is not permissible under federal guidelines and based on precedent from previous court cases. Additionally, in State Statute, the FHSAA is legally a 'State Actor' which means that the FHSAA cannot legally grant permission for this request.
"Please understand that this has nothing to do with not respecting religion and to reiterate, the FHSAA is not prohibiting either school from praying. Both schools are welcome to pray on their own. Fans are certainly welcome to pray on their own as well."