Published September 19, 2012 - 8:33pm
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The Freedom From Religion Foundation recently sent a cease-and-desist letter to the University of Tennessee asking the school to discontinue the tradition of a pregame prayer at Neyland Stadium.
“This is a public university, not a Christian club. It’s open to all comers and should be welcoming,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the foundation and author of the letter sent to Chancellor Jimmy Cheek. “When you’re not religious or are of another faith and you get prayed at during events, it’s really very grating. It’s a sock in the gut for you to go for a sporting event and then be told to conform to someone else’s religion.”
Officials defended the prayer saying it does not violate the United States Constitution and earlier this week, the University sent an official response:
Dear Ms. Gaylor:
This letter is in response to your letter dated September 13, 2012 concerning prayer at University of Tennessee, Knoxville events, including football games. After conferring with the University’s legal counsel, my understanding is that the decision of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Chaudhuri v. State of Tennessee, which as you note is binding in Tennessee, specifically held that nonsectarian prayer at public university events does not violate the First Amendment.
I appreciate your conern about this issue, and I want to assure you that I have given this issue careful consideration. At this time, however, the University will continue to allow prayers before University events consistent with the Chaudhuri case.
Recently, UT-Chattanooga replaced their pregame prayer with a moment of silence.
I might be going out on a limb here, but I would suspect that most UT fans are more concerned about the Vols finding a run game to support Tyler Bray’s passing game.