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No Pray, No Play

As high school football players take the field in Santa Fe, Texas, this fall, the real contest won't be at the scrimmage line but in the stands, where people angry at a Supreme Court ban on stadium prayer will pray in protest.

As CBS News Correspondent Randall Pinkston reports, the town is ground zero in the battle between church and state—the town that lost the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case banning school sponsored prayer.

In June, by a 6-3 vote, the Court ruled that public school districts cannot let students lead stadium crowds in prayer before high school football games—specifically, that allowing a student to deliver a Christian prayer over the loudspeaker before kickoff violates the constitutional requirement on separation of church and state.

Organizers had hoped the first football game of the season would be the site of a massive protest.

Prayer Battle
In the state of Virginia, the American Civil Liberties Union has gone to court in the hopes of overturning the new Virginia law that requires a moment of silence in public schools.

A Texas group, "No Pray, No Play," called for spectators in the stands to recite "The Lord's Prayer" right after the National Anthem.

While scattered groups did pray, their voices were drowned out by the stadium announcer. The number of protesters here fell far short of predictions, but organizers were still defiant.

"Wherever I am on Friday night watching the football game, I'll pray the Lord's prayer again, yes sir," said Rev. David Newsome.

Christian activists have also staged so-called spontaneous prayer recitals in the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas to protesting the prayer ban.

"This court not only crushed the First Amendment but showed an outright hostility to people of faith in America," said Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition.

This week, Christian groups deignated the first weekend in October as the date for a public prayer recital at high school football games across the country.

"I should have a right to pray anywhere I want to in the name of Jesus Christ," said one Santa Fe woman.

However, the protests are about more than religion.

Evolution Forces Win Kansas Ballot
In another debate over values in the schools, Kansas voters in August backed the instruction of evolution in a high-profile election.

With the presidential campaign about to enter high gear after Labor Day, Christian activists hope to make prayer and the Supreme Court a political issue.

"The next president will most likely nominate three Supreme Court justices to this court. We want to know where they stand on this issue," said Mahoney.

Texas Gov. and Republican nominee George W. Bush wrote a friend of the court letter in the Santa Fe case, siding with the school district and its prayer policy.

Case History
On June 17, 1963, the Supreme Court issued a ruling covering two cases and effectively banned prayer from public schools.

The first case was Murray v. Curlett, in which a family in Baltimore, Maryland, objected to a school policy that forced their son to either listen to a Bible reading every day, or sit outside the classroom while it was going on.

In School District of Abington Township, Pennsylvania v. Schempp, the Schempp family objected to a Pennsylvania statute that required the reading of at least ten Bible verses at the opening of every public school day.

Rendering the decision, the majority wrote:
"No state law or school board may require that passages from the Bible be read or that the Lord's Prayer be recited in the public schools of a state at the beginning of each school dayeven if individual students may be excused from attending or participating in such exercises upon written request of their parents."

(Source: SCOTUS)

However, the protesters' tactics are being questioned by many religious leaders in Texas.

"We were not invited, though had we been invited we would have probably chose not to have any type of organized participation," said Msgr. Fank Rossi.

For non-Christians, the message of "No pray, no play" is troubling.

"I find them highly offensive. I find them very insensitive to myself as a rabbi, to Jews and, I'm sure, to other people who are not Christian," said Houston Rabbi Avi Schulman.

The case originated when two families—one Catholic and one Mormon—challenged the Santa Fe policy. Their identities were sealed by the courts.

They sued the Santa Fe Independent School District in Galveston County, Texas, in 1995 over its policy of letting students elect a "chaplain" to lead "prayers" at graduation ceremonies and home football games.

Prayers over the football stadium's public address system were heard at all of Santa Fe High School's home football games last fall.

The Supreme Court's June ruling added to decisions in 1962 barring public school prayers in the classroom, and in 1992 barring prayers at graduation ceremonies.

Justice John Paul Steven said that because these invocations take place on government property at government-sponsored school-related events they breach the Constitution's wall separating church and state.

Writing for the majority, Stevens said: "The policy is invalid on its face because it establishes an improper majoritarian election on religion and unquestionably has the purpose and creates the perception of encouraging the delivery of prayer at a series of important school events."

Stevens said while the court recognizes "the important role that public worship plays in many communities…Such religious activity in public schools, as elsewhere, must comport with the First Amendment."

Uniform Concerns
Philadelphia is now the largest school district nationwide that requires a dress code in public schools.

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented in a vigorous opinion by Rehnquist.

"Even more disturbing than its holding is the tone of the court's opinion: It bristles with hostility to all things religious in public life," Rehnquist said.