Cheerleaders bring prayers back to the football field

After Oneida High School found out they had to drop the prayer from their football games, many in the community felt they were missing something.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Originally we reported that the ruling/letter came from TSSAA. It actually came from the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee.

After Oneida High School found out they had to drop the prayer from their football games, many in the community felt they were missing something. The change came after pressure and a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, or ACLU.

One group couldn't let that stand. That group has one of the biggest voices during a football game. It's the cheerleading squad.

Kevin Acres sits in the booth for every Oneida High School home game. This year, his repertoire will be missing something-- the pregame prayer.

"Far as I know we have been playing football here since 1930 and been praying ever since," said Acres.

A couple of years ago, the ACLU asked schools to stop announcing prayers over the PA, but Oneida bucked the order and kept the prayer in the pre-game.

"We just felt as long as no one here locally complained, we can continue to do it," said Acres.

That went on until this season. The school started feeling pressure from outside groups to end that religious tradition, so they replaced it with a moment of silence.

"I heard the moment of silence, but it was kind of a sick feeling in my stomach," said head football coach Tony Lambert.

In this moment, Acres gave people a choice.

"During our moment of silence, if you want to say a prayer, that would be perfectly fine," said Acres.

Asia Canada is a cheerleader for Oneida. She and her squad felt a moment of silence wasn't enough, so they took action.

"He called for the moment of silence and I started off, 'Our Father who art in heaven' and everyone joined in," said Canada.

Even the visiting team's cheerleaders and fans joined in.

"When they started saying it, the crowd started saying the Lord's prayer. And by the time the prayer was over with, the entire stadium was saying it," said Acres.

And it has become a tradition before every home game; the cheerleaders lead the prayer, not over the PA, but with their own voices.

Canada says it makes her nervous, because she wants to say it right.

"I never prayed in front of a big crowd before. I am just used to fifteen girls and my coach," she said.

But they all push through, to get their message across.

"It just touches my heart that so many people are getting involved with it," said Canada.

In this case, the new tradition is allowed because it isn't coming over the PA, but rather from the students.


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