OSSAA board to review public prayer ban at Oklahoma high school football games

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OKLAHOMA CITY - The state attorney general is challenging a policy at the governing body of Oklahoma’s high school sports.

As Oklahoma high school athletes gear up for the postseason, the association that runs the playoffs is taking a hard look at a longtime policy over prayer.

This OSSAA policy has been in place since 1993, but the board could soon shake things up.

People can pray at all football games whether it’s in the locker room or in the bleachers.

At issue here is what’s said over the loud-speaker at playoff games. The current policy bans prayers being broadcast over the loud-speaker.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt wrote a nine-page opinion on the policy, calling it “constitutionally overbroad.”

Here’s how the policy reads:

“No school, individual, group, or organization may publicly recite a prayer to all attendees and participants, or invite attendees and participants to pray, whether audibly or in silence, at OSSAA championship events, or at regional, area, district or other playoff events leading to championship events.”

“What the AG’s opinion does, I don’t think it orders them to do it, but it basically puts them on notice that their policy could get them in some completely hot water,” ACLU Legal Director Brady Henderson said.

The local chapter of the ACLU agrees with the attorney general in part on this one because there are so many private Christian schools that participate in OSSAA activities.

“That’s a big deal because what goes for Edmond Memorial High School in terms of the rules they operate under as far as student religion is going to be very different than Bishop McGuinness,” Henderson said.

OSSAA officials wouldn’t comment Tuesday, saying it’ll be up to the board to decide what happens next.

But, they maintain the policy does not ban spectators, athletes and coaches from praying individually or among themselves at any time surrounding games.