LEE COUNTY, AL (WTVM) – Parents and students at Smiths Station High School talked to religious leaders Monday night about moving forward with public prayer after the recent controversy surrounding high school football games.
Monday's meeting at Smiths Station Baptist Church allowed an opportunity for parents and students to meet with the Christian Coalition of Alabama to make sense of what happened one August night before the start of a Panthers' football game and to respond to what some are calling outside influence.
"I was very surprised by it," said Chami Storey, a senior at Smiths Station High. "It was a very big shock to me."
The Lee County School District demanded Smiths Station High stop what many families at the school say has been a decades-long tradition of having students lead a prayer before the start of a game.
The Lee County School System received a letter from the Freedom from Religion Foundation saying a member of the school community that attended the Smiths Station-Opelika game was offended after hearing a student-led prayer and is threatening to sue.
"It was very overwhelming that we could stop the rivalries all week," Storey said. "There's always been a huge rivalry between Smiths Station and Central, so for two communities, coming together as one, it was very overwhelming and for the best."
According to the Freedom from Religion Foundation, this goes back to the issue of prayer at a public school and what they call the "sponsorship" of religious messages at athletic events.
This statement, prompting groups like the Christian Coalition of Alabama to publicly support students' ability to express their beliefs and identity.
Dr. Randy Brinson, chairman of the CCA, said high school students are at a stage in life where they're finding their own identities.
"Your Christian faith makes up a big part of that identity," Brinson said, "and some adult's telling you-you can't express that part of your identity in this particular setting. That's not right."
A GoFundMe has been created to purchase a Lord's Prayer sign to put up in the city of Smiths Station, but the location has not been determined.
The Lee County School Board does not allow ads with religious organizations inside the stadium.
The Lord's Prayer t-shirts are also being sold.