From WBIR: Local cheerleaders’ fight to keep prayer on the football field has gained national attention.
A couple years ago, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee asked Oneida High School to stop announcing prayers over the PA system, but Oneida bucked the order and kept the pre-game prayer. That continued until this season. Oneida High School started feeling pressure from outside groups to end that religious tradition, so they replaced the prayer with a moment of silence.
But the cheerleading squad felt that a moment of silence wasn’t enough, so co-captain of the squad, Asia Canada, took action.
“He called for the moment of silence, and I started off, ‘Our Father who art in heaven’ and everyone joined in,” Asia told WBIR 10News on Monday.
Now it has become a tradition before every home game; the cheerleaders lead the prayer – not over the PA – but with their voices. Their fight against restrictions has now reached the national media outlets, including Fox & Friends on Fox News.
On Friday morning, Elisabeth Hasselbeck interviewed Canada and her fellow co-captain Alley Myers on Fox & Friends. The girls told Hasselbeck that their community needs prayer, especially before football games.
“We pray for the safety of each and every player out there, and the cheerleaders, and the fans for their drive home,” Myers told Hasselbeck. “I just feel that it (prayer) needs to be in football games.”
For Canada, it was a moment she’ll never forget.
“It was an unforgettable moment, just hearing everybody reciting the Lord’s Prayer. It was amazing,” Asia told Hasselbeck.
Fox & Friends reached out to Oneida’s director of schools Ann Sexton for comment. Sexton wrote in a statement that she made her decision based on the law.
“We received letters over the last couple of years from different organizations about broadcasting prayer at any ball game is unconstitutional,” Sexton wrote to Fox News. “This summer I attended a law retreat where they specifically gave us direction not to have prayer at the games.”
Asia said no matter if the squad is banned to lead the stadium in prayer, it will always be an important tradition.
“If we have the opportunity to, we will,” Asia said on Fox & Friends. “But if we don’t, then we’ll say it together on our own.”
Many people in Oneida and even across the country are backing the team up. Someone in the community even created t-shirts emblazoned with “Keep Calm and Pray On.” All proceeds from the $15 shirts will benefit the Oneida High School cheerleading squad.