HARRIMAN (WATE) – A Harriman city councilman says he's upset there isn't a public prayer before games in Roane County's schools. The Director of Schools says they haven't prayed publicly at games for years. Instead they let students pray privately in groups.
Councilman J.D. Sampson wants the issue to be put on the ballot down the road.
It started when Sampson went for a couple high school basketball games three weeks ago. He says he never heard the national anthem, the pledge of allegiance, or a prayer at the game. It bothered him so much, he brought it up at the last city council meeting.
"I was wondering why they left it out," Sampson explained.
The Director of Schools, Gary Aytes says the pledge and the national anthem were left out at those particular games because of a problem with the PA system.
For Sampson, that explanation was not good enough.
"I think the band should have played the national anthem or one of the kids could have sung it without the music," he said.
As far as the larger issue of prayer goes Aytes released a statement saying "We do not do an open public prayer at the games, but our students are welcome to meet together before or after the game and pray in private groups."
"I'd like the county commission to get together and put it on the ballot. Let people vote on it. We are a democratic country," Sampson said.
We took the issue to locals.
"I believe prayer needs to be in schools. I really do, ball games and all," said Roane County resident Don Griffin.
"It should be up to the individual," said Jerrell Robinson, about how he feels people should not be forced to take part in a public prayer.
We should also mention Sampson is up for re-election in August. Although he says this issue has nothing to do with his campaign. He says this is simply about keeping God in children's lives.
"If Roane County does this, then Tennessee may do it, and then other states may step up and do it. And we can get God back in schools," Sampson said.
Aytes does not foresee them making any changes to the prayer policy at games. For one, this is a county issue and would have to be brought to the school board for discussion. So far that's nowhere close to happening.
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