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Religion in the Locker Room


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We’ve all seen the routine team chants, moments of silence, and other pre-game rituals, but a prayer may be a little more out of the ordinary. Football fans may be more accustomed to this than other sports fans, seeing as a pre-game team prayer isn’t as uncommon amongst NFL teams and players like Tim Tebow. Mira Costa’s own football team has a tradition of holding a team prayer before their games.

While the prayer is completely optional for all players, the participation of coaches and other district staff members violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment which prohibits governments, or government entities like public high schools, from promoting a religion. There has been a controversial gray area surrounding religious activities in public schools since the 1960s, when the Supreme Court ruled that schools and school officials are to be prohibited from leading prayers or school-sponsored Bible readings in the case Engel v. Vitale (1962).

More recent Supreme Court cases have also affirmed this ruling against school-sponsorship of religion. In 2000, the Court ruled in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe that a Texas high school’s tradition of opening their football games with a prayer over the school’s public address system. Although the prayer was initiated by high school students, the Supreme Court still ruled that it constituted as government endorsement of religion because it was done over the schools PA system.

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Religion in the Locker Room