Federal Judge Issues Restraining Order to Stop Prayers Before Football Games

Federal Judge Issues Restraining Order to Stop Prayers Before Football Games

U.S. District Judge Ernest Tidwell

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In Georgia, a federal judge issues a restraining order against the Douglas County High School to stop the practice of prayers before football games. Doug Jaeger, an agnostic, has filed a lawsuit to stop the prayers because they represent a government endorsement of religion and thus a violation the separation of church and state.

According to U.S. District Judge Ernest Tidwell, prayers before football games have "no secular purpose." Marshall Helms, the school's lawyer, seems to think that merely being a longstanding tradition is the same as having a secular purpose:

"The ruling obviously is disappointing because we felt that we had demonstrated to the court that this was a longstanding tradition, and one that has been allowed on that basis under some of the cases that were cited to the court."

Doug Jaeger says that he isn't against religion or prayer, just against the government promoting religion and prayer: "I just don't want someone to get on the loudspeaker and blare it out and intimidate." The Jaeger family will be subject to harassment and death threats as a result of this ruling, a problem frequently experienced by people who challenge violations of church/state separation in small communities.

Dr. Jesse C. Laseter, superintendent of Rome city schools, insists that they will continue with prayers until forced to stop:

"We plan to continue that. I think it's a proper way to open a school extracurricular activity. ...

A court order in and of itself in Douglas County or San Diego does not dictate policy in Rome."

Area ministers are also upset. Woodrow Hudson, pastor of Douglasville's First Baptist Church, says:

"I think it is very obvious that a majority of the community and fans are in favor of an invocation."
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