Appeals Court Overturns Ban on Prayer before Florida High School Football Games

Source: Will Maule | Contributor 

An appeals court has overturned a legal ruling which banned a Christian school from hosting prayers before a football game.

Back in 2015, Cambridge Christian School in Tampa, Florida was ordered to cease praying over a loudspeaker at the start of its state championship game against University Christian School of Jacksonville. As a result of the order, Cambridge launched a lawsuit against the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA).

In a unanimous decision issued Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit slapped down the previous ruling by the district court that banned the school from praying, noting that the lower court was “too quick to dismiss all of Cambridge Christian’s claims out of hand.”

“Taking the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, as we must at this stage in the proceedings, the schools’ claims for relief under the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses have been adequately and plausibly pled,” wrote Eleventh Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus in his decision, according to the Christian Post.

“And while we agree with the district court that the loudspeaker was a nonpublic forum, we conclude that Cambridge Christian has plausibly alleged that it was arbitrarily and haphazardly denied access to the forum in violation of the First Amendment.”

The conservative law firm representing the school, First Liberty, welcomed the overturning.

“We are grateful to have won this appeal and look forward to presenting our case on behalf of Cambridge Christian School to the district court,” they said in a statement Wednesday.

“The First Amendment protects the rights of students and teachers at a private Christian school to pray before a football game, especially when both teams are Christian and have a tradition of prayer before games.”

The original incident occurred when both teams showed a desire to declare a prayer over the loudspeaker prior to their 2A state championship game at the Citrus Bowl Stadium. The FHSAA, however, rejected their request.

In his decision, HSAA head Roger Dearing told the schools that stadium was “a public facility, predominantly paid for with public tax dollars, [making] the facility ‘off-limits’ under federal guidelines and precedent court cases.”

Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Ellinngee