Group challenges prayer before UT football games

Group challenges prayer before UT football games

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By JESSA LEWIS
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - University of Tennessee officials have received a letter from a national organization asking the university to stop prayer before UT football games.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation sent the letter to the chancellor's office last week.

However, the original complaint about prayer before Vol football games came from an alumnus in August.

After forcing prayer out before UT-Chattanooga events, students in Knoxville teamed up with the Freedom from Religion Foundation to accomplish the same goal.

"We got notification from someone that goes to UTC, at Chattanooga, who had filed a complaint with the Freedom from Religion Foundation talking about prayers before school sponsored events," said Shaun Adams, with the Secular Student Alliance.

He wants to replace the Lord's Prayer with a moment of silence before kickoff. "We think at UTK, there is a broad range of students representing a bunch of different religions, as well as those who don't represent a religion at all. And we think it's proper to represent all those people, with something like a moment of silence before a football game."

The Freedom from Religion Foundation says they expect university policy to change since they were successful in Chattanooga.

"It's also good manners, not to exclude people, not to force ritual on people who do not enjoy or share the same beliefs as the majority," said Annie-Laurie Gaylor, with the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

In the letter, the foundation says it's their understanding that a clergy member delivers prayers routinely invoking Jesus Christ prior to football games. It's something they say is unconstitutional.

"We would expect reason to prevail. The law is very clear. The facts are very clear, and we think they should be discontinuing it. We would expect a resolution," Gaylor said.

UT responded to the request Tuesday, saying, "We don't believe our tradition of prayer at football games violates the Constitution as long as we follow guidelines set out by the court. We are preparing a response to the letter and we hope to have that ready before the end of the week."

The Freedom from Religion Foundation is the same group that sent letters to the Lenoir City Police Department and Knox County Commission.

6 News also spoke with a member of the campus ministers council who says they work with the athletic department and the vice chancellor's office to ensure inclusion of all people. The council says they would rather be represented in prayer than a moment of silence.

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