UPDATE: Sissonville Students Stage Protest at Game after Prayer Ban

By: Anna Baxter, Lauren Denney, Jennifer Rizzi Email
By: Anna Baxter, Lauren Denney, Jennifer Rizzi Email

UPDATE 9/21/12 @ 10:30 p.m.
SISSONVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The sound of the Lord's Prayer rang out across Sissonville High School Stadium before Friday night's football game kickoff.

Dozens of students lined up at the edge of the bleachers in peaceful protest, arms linked together. They recited the prayer in unison after the superintendent banned official prayer before games.

"The teachers can't pray with us [now]," student Kaylee Goff said. "They're here for us, but they can't do it with us."

The longtime practice was stopped after a complaint by a parent to the group "Freedom from Religion." The group's attorneys say such a prayer is unconstitutional.

But students decided to exercise their right to free speech at Friday's game by making a prayer protest chain. They came dressed in purple to signify the Biblical color of royalty and handed out cards with the prayer written on it.

"We posted it on Facebook and Twitter, and then one of our friends made a video," Goff said. "We posted it on social networking sites to promote everybody coming out to support Jesus."

"It shows that we'll stand up for what we believe in," student Taylor Rhodes said.

Some folks attending the game say they understand the decision to ban the prayer, but believe students should be able to exercise their rights to free speech.

"There are many things I disagree with and many things I oppose," Bill Eastwood said. "But I certainly will not ever take the position that their freedom of expression and speech should be banned in any way."

Students say they plan to keep up the practice at every game.

UPDATE 9/21/12 @ 6:30 p.m.
SISSONVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- At Friday night's Sissonville High School, the speakers will be silent before the football game.

The prayer that's kicked off Football Friday Night for years will not be said. The practice was stopped after a complaint by a parent to the group "Freedom from Religion." The group's attorneys say such a prayer is unconstitutional. Students were outraged.

"Somebody called and reported it from the last time that we'd been praying, and everybody was just mad because, I mean, we've been praying for how long and now someone wants to complain about it," freshman Harley Pugh said.

"It's so uplifting to be able to pray with the entire community all together for one thing," freshman Regan Sands said.

The girls decided to do something about it.

"I called my friend Regan and we decided we'd set up a Facebook site," Harley said. "It was launched at like 3:30, and by this morning we had like 200-some followers."

That page turned into a movement. Dozens of students wore purple Friday in support of prayer before games.

"I'm lifted up by the idea that the students are so moved by this issue that they'd want to indicate that in a big way," Principal Ron Reedy said.

Reedy says he understands where they're coming from.

"When I graduated from Kanawha County many years ago, I was the student that led those prayers," Reedy said.

Harley says even if the prayer remains canceled, it's good that people are talking about God.

"You don't hear about it as much anymore, and now you're starting to hear about it again," Harley said.

ORIGINAL STORY 9/21/12 @ 3 p.m.
SISSONVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A battle over prayer before football games has students joining together in protest at Sissonville High School.

After a parent's complaint to advocacy group "Freedom From Religion," the superintendent of Kanawha County Schools banned the invocation prior to home football games. The invocation was traditionally given by a local minister.

In protest, students are wearing purple on Friday and are planning a group prayer prior to kickoff.

The group has also created a public Facebook page named "Praying in Kanawha County Schools."

WSAZ.com tried to contact Superintendent Ron Duerring for comment, but he was out of town.

The principal at Sissonville High School tells WSAZ.com he supports prayer, but a person can't fight the constitution.

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