Prayer ban at UT-Chattanooga worries UT-Knoxville students

Prayer ban at UT-Chattanooga worries UT-Knoxville students

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"Disappointed, and kind of puts a little bit of rage inside me, to be honest. I don't think it's appropriate," said Baptist Collegiate Ministry intern TJ Earl. "Disappointed, and kind of puts a little bit of rage inside me, to be honest. I don't think it's appropriate," said Baptist Collegiate Ministry intern TJ Earl.
"My first reaction is disappointment as a Christian," said Baptist Collegiate Ministry member Jake Darlington. "My first reaction is disappointment as a Christian," said Baptist Collegiate Ministry member Jake Darlington.
"In order to have separation of church and state, public schools do not need to be having prayers at these public events," said Secular Student Alliance member Elisabeth Spratt. "In order to have separation of church and state, public schools do not need to be having prayers at these public events," said Secular Student Alliance member Elisabeth Spratt.
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By JOSH AULT
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Some students at the University of Tennessee are ready to fight for their right to pray at the start of football games.

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga officials banned public prayer before football games after receiving a complaint. Now some Knoxville student fear the same kind of ban will be put in place at Neyland Stadium.

The prayer complaint sent to school officials in Chattanooga came from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The organization says a local person complained in May about prayer at games.

Freedom From Religion Foundation officials say it is rare to get complaints about universities, but that is not keeping students on Knoxville's campus from speaking out on the issue.

"Not shocked at all," said Baptist Collegiate Ministry intern TJ Earl. "Disappointed, and kind of puts a little bit of rage inside me, to be honest. I don't think it's appropriate."

"My first reaction is disappointment as a Christian," said Baptist Collegiate Ministry member Jake Darlington. "Prayer is extremely important to me."

Students at UT who belong to the Secular Student Alliance say they think the decision to remove prayer from the start of football games was correct.

"In order to have separation of church and state, public schools do not need to be having prayers at these public events," said SSA member Elisabeth Spratt.

So will public prayers at Neyland Stadium be banned next?
     
"We wouldn't have the capability to go searching for these things, so unless someone local contacts us, we don't go seeking violations," said Freedom From Religion Foundation staff attorney Stephanie Schmitt.

Schmitt says right now they have no complaints from anyone in Knoxville.
     
"It's possible," said Spratt about someone filing a complaint. "We haven't talked about it directly, but that may come up in meetings in the future."

"Let's just say if they actually do come here and try to take away prayer at UT," said Darlington, "I'll probably be the first one running around signing a petition to try to get it back on the field."

UT officials in Knoxville did not want to do an interview about this topic, but say there is no discussion currently in stopping public prayers at football games.
    
Freedom From Religion Foundation officials say unless they have a local person who contacts them then there is no way legally they can pursue a case.

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