Pregame prayer pulled at high school football games

Pregame prayer pulled at high school football games

JEFFERSON DAVIS COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - A pregame prayer has been pulled from the stadium Friday nights for the Jefferson Davis County Jaguars.

"As far as I can remember, they've always done prayers at the football games," said Greg Mcraney, the father of a football player.  "So yeah, I was kind of confused by it. Concerned as well."

Mcraney said instead of a prayer before the National Anthem at the home game on Friday, September 15th, the stadium announcer paused for a moment of silence.

"My initial thought was, who would want to take prayer away from students in a contact sport? What would be the reason for that?"

Mcraney said others in the stands, and since in the community, were confused from the change as well.

"I've seen kids taken off in stretchers into an ambulance this year and it wasn't asking a moment of silence for a kid," said Mcraney.  "It was a prayer."

Jefferson Davis County Superintendent Will Russell said the change was made after a message from the Mississippi High School Activities Association.

"We have to be in compliance with the law of the land," said Russell.  "The Mississippi High School Activities Association sent out a reminder that we aren't supposed to pray at extracurricular activities, so a decision was made to do a moment of silence."

According to the Todd Kelly, Director of Development and Communications for the MHSAA, there is not a policy requiring pregame announcements.

"We do offer suggested remarks for PA announcers, which schools are free to use at their discretion," Kelly wrote in an Email.

When asked about the reminder Russell mentioned, Kelly provided this statement:

"As he does each year, MHSAA executive director Don Hinton sent a reminder before football season began to superintendents and athletic directors: "Please review your policy with your school district board attorney to make sure you are in compliance with the law concerning public address announcements. For your guidance, I have included a suggested pregame announcement from pages 86-87 of the MHSAA Handbook for public address system announcers at athletic events. Wishing you and your school district a terrific start to the new school year and sport seasons."

The "suggested pregame announcements" do not include any mention of a prayer or moment of silence leading up to the playing of the National Anthem.

"They got a chance to take stand for the kids and set a good example and to me it was just a weak decision," Mcraney said.

Around the Pine Belt, school districts differ in pregame programs.

In Hattiesburg, you will not hear a prayer before the Tigers take the field.  Instead, according to the Hattiesburg Public School District, there is a moment of silence.

When the Panthers play on Friday nights at home, Petal fans hear a student-led message.  Superintendent Matt Dillon said the board is fully aware of the message.

Russell said the school board could discuss the matter and potentially vote on reinstating it, something that happened in Covington County.

"I would like to see them go back to praying for students before the game. It's not just students, but family members, fans, officials, everyone involved," said Mcraney.  "Or, if they can't do it for some reason, I would like the person that made this decision to look at the kids in the eye and tell them why it's not important to pray for them during a sporting event."