Illegal or not, West Branch wants its prayers back


BELOIT

Some members of the West Branch schools community are sporting “Prayer Matters” T-shirts in support of a long-standing tradition that has come under fire.

The issue “matters to them, and matters in general,” said West Branch parent Kristen Dwaine Everett. “When you start taking away traditions, it gets people riled up.”

West Branch schools halted prayer before athletic games after receiving a letter Jan. 18 from the Freedom From Religion Foundation stating the practice is unconstitutional.

The letter states: “One of our complainants reports that a recent varsity basketball game [on Jan. 5] at West Branch High School a prayer was delivered over the loudspeaker after the National Anthem was played. It was reported that all in attendance were asked to remain standing for this prayer and that the prayer was Christian in nature.”

On Tuesday, Elizabeth Bonham, American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio staff attorney, stated: “The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that it is impermissible for religious practices to take place during school-sponsored events.”

Tim Saxton, West Branch superintendent, said Tuesday that all prayers were stopped upon receiving the complaint and the district is in contact with its lawyer.

But the community wants the praying to return.

In less than 24 hours from the shirts’ creation, more than 200 $10 “Prayer Matters” shirts have been sold.

Read more about the issue in Saturday's Vindicator or on Vindy.com.

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