Alabama coaches react to Supreme Court prayer decision

File image of the Lowndes County football team praying at a game
File image of the Lowndes County football team praying at a game(Source: WSFA 12 News)
Published: Jun. 27, 2022 at 11:20 PM EDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Supreme Court’s ruling that prayer on the field after games is protected by the First Amendment has drawn support from several coaches and athletes in Alabama.

In the Bible Belt, prayer before, during and after a game is something many coaches and athletes were already doing without any controversy, but the same can’t be said for other states.

Gary Cramer is the director of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at the University of Alabama. He admires Bremerton, Washington high school coach Joseph Kennedy for being persistent despite the consequences.

“What I appreciate about him is the fact that he stayed with his convictions, stayed true to who he was,” Cramer said. “We can always stand up for our rights, but we also have to be willing to pay the price, and I think that’s what I respect most about somebody like coach.”

Matt Arrighi is a basketball coach at Trinity Presbyterian School in Montgomery.

“I know a lot of coaches have to be inspired by that,” Arrighi said. “Hopefully it will just have an impact in ways that we’ll probably never know on this side of heaven.”

“The fact that coaches around the country, even in a public school setting, will have the ability to do some of the similar things that we get to do every day is, God’s just doing neat things,” Arrighi said.

U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, released the following statement after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of protecting religion in Kennedy v. Bremerton:

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a victory for religious liberty and the protections afforded to Americans under the First Amendment. The right to freely exercise religion is a powerful – and important – part of the fabric of our nation and must be protected. We are blessed to live in a country that recognizes the ability to worship freely and I applaud the Supreme Court for upholding this fundamental right.”

It’s not just coaches reacting to the news. Prayer has been a vital part of play for some athletes too.

“We would pray in the locker rooms and before college games,” said former University of Alabama and current Cleveland Browns tight end Miller Forristall. “I think it’s awesome that we live in a place where people can freely practice their expression of religion because a lot of countries you can’t do that.”

Aside from Tuberville, WSFA 12 News was unable to find a state lawmaker who spoke out about the ruling.

The national organization Freedom From Religion Foundation denounced the ruling. The group’s legal director, Rebecca Markert, said, in part, “Today’s decision will hurt vulnerable public-school children who deserve protection from religious intrusion.”

WSFA 12 News reached out to the Alabama High School Athletic Association for a response. They chose not to comment.

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