Superintendent: Moment of silence to stay at Jeff Davis football games

Superintendent: Moment of silence to stay at Jeff Davis football games
Photo credit: WDAM

JEFFERSON DAVIS COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - The debate over prayer at high school football games continues in Jefferson Davis County.

Dozens of people showed up to the school board meeting Monday night hoping to address the situation with board members and Superintendent Will Russell. Instead, they got an answer of "no action."

Greg Mcraney, a concerned parent, spoke out on the topic last month when the prayer over the loud speaker was replaced with a moment of silence during the season.  While the issue was not put on the agenda for Monday night's meeting, Mcraney was given the opportunity to speak to board members during a closed session following the regular meeting.

"I asked them to reconsider their position considering we have a law that protects our right to pray at school events," Mcraney said.

At the end of the closed session, the board announced it would not be going into executive session to discuss the matter.  The decision was "no action," meaning the prayer would not be reinstated.  People were advised to contact Superintendent Russell with any other concerns.

Russell declined an on-camera interview following the meeting, but told WDAM there will be a moment of silence at Friday's home game.

The superintendent passed around this copy of an email from the Mississippi High School Activities Association, stating it had received a letter from the American Atheist Legal Center over the summer regarding prayer spoken over stadium loud speakers.

While Russell and school board members continued to tell people it was "the law,"  a statement from the MHSAA said the association reminds districts to follow school board policy.

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.

"There's a bill that was signed by Governor Phil Bryant that gives students the right to pray and the right to religious freedom in the school system," said Wesley Clark, Student Pastor at Grace Covenant Church.

Clark said the prayer was removed at his children's school district, Forrest County Agricultural, but was reinstated after the board was reminded of Senate Bill 2633, also known as the "Mississippi Student Religious Liberties Act of 2013."

"As long as we appease somebody with an inch, then two inches, three inches, we won't have anything to stand on," said Valton Douglas, Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church.  Douglas said his children go to Jefferson Davis County Schools.

"I'm here to stand on the book, the bible and the Constitution of the United States of America," Douglas said.

"I'm hoping they will reconsider their position. They will come clean with the people, not hide behind excuses or make-up reasons to support their stance,"  Mcraney said.  "But actually do what our community wants them to do and what the law allows them to do."