Legal organization talks recent challenge to VCS' practice of student-led prayer at football games

Updated: Oct. 27, 2020 at 5:17 PM EDT
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VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - A legal organization is on a mission to protect students' religious expression on school campuses and events after Valdosta City Schools was challenged for its practice of student-led prayers before football games.

"What the model does is allow students to be able to engage in as much religious expression as they are entitled to under the constitution, which is a whole lot,” said Jeremy Dys, special counsel for litigation and communications for First Liberty Institute.

First Liberty, Dys pointed out, is a nationwide legal organization that is dedicated to restoring and defending religious liberty for all Americans, whether it is in the military, churches or schools.

Dys said they heard about the challenge Valdosta City Schools was facing and decided to reach out with a proposal.

“We just simply have taken to informing schools as we find out about this that students have a ton of religious liberty when it comes to schools and it comes upon every school official to make sure they are working hard to ensure the maximum amount of liberty for their students in terms of religious speech, expression and conduct,” said Dys.

Dys said Lowndes County Schools had the same issue last year and they adopted the policy.

Dys said these prayers have been challenged around the country on school grounds.

The first amendment fully protects students’ religious expression at class assignments, graduation ceremonies and football games, according to Dys.

The proposed policy comes from a statute passed in Texas in 2007, that has never been challenged and has been successful wherever it’s been used and applied appropriately, according to Dys.

WALB reached out to Valdosta City Schools to learn more about the recent challenge but they said this is pending litigation and denied an interview for now. WALB also checked in with the Lowndes County Clerk’s Office and nothing has been filed.

“We want to make sure those freedoms are well preserved because if those are lost, there’s a little freedom of our country that we lose as well,” said Dys.

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