ACLU’s Opposition to Pre-Game Prayer Shows It is No “Champion” of Students’ Rights

By: Matt Sharp

“But do not do what [the Pharisees] do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” Matthew 23:3-4.

To read the ACLU of Tennessee’s website, you might be confused into thinking that they are passionate defenders of students’ religious liberty at school. They state that the “Bill of Rights … protects individual rights—like freedom of speech, the right to privacy, and freedom of religion” and that “[t]he Constitution doesn’t place age requirements on these freedoms.” They claim that they have “long been a champion for protecting and preserving the constitutional rights of young people.”

So if the ACLU of Tennessee is a “champion” for the religious liberty of students, why is it trying to stop them from praying before football games?

The ACLU of Tennessee sent a letter to every school district in Tennessee warning them against “sponsoring prayer at their football games.” They claim to “want to preserve the sanctity of everyone’s religious freedom.” But they warn that they do not want to see “taxpayers, students and parents … ostracized and excluded if they do not wish to participate in unconstitutional, state-endorsed prayer at athletic events.”

But what about students who are “ostracized and excluded” for wanting to pray at football games? Does the ACLU stand for their rights? What about players who want to huddle together on the field before games to pray for the safety of everyone? What about the student who, when selected to speak at graduation, wants to recite a blessing from the Bible? Not a word from the ACLU about these students’ rights.

And why doesn’t the ACLU instruct schools on how to draft a policy that allows a student to give a pre-game message of their choice. If the student gives a pep talk or prays or even reads a poem, that is the student’s own speech, and it is protected by the First Amendment. Courts have upheld these types of policies, but the ACLU—the “champion” of students’ rights—didn’t bother to mention any of those cases.

The ACLU would rather shut down public prayer rather than help a school adopt a constitutional policy that protects all student expression, including the religious variety. They burden schools by telling them what they can’t do rather than instructing them in what they can do. To paraphrase the words of Christ, they don’t practice the defense of students’ religious liberty that they preach.

But Alliance Defending Freedom does. When we tell you that we are for religious liberty, we mean it. And so to help schools in Tennessee (and across the country) know what they can do, we have prepared a model policy that a school district can adopt that would allow a student to give a pre-game message of their choice, including a student-initiated, student-led prayer.

Religious liberty means the freedom to live your faith in public. And Alliance Defending Freedom is ready to practice what we preach by helping any school to adopt a policy that preserves the religious liberties of its students. If your school district needs assistance, please contact us at 1-800-835-5233.

Author: Alliance Defending Freedom