• April 8, 2020
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Before the Tennessee-NC State football game, there was a pregame prayer. The prayer was in front of 50,000 fans some being non-Christian and sparking controversy.

Disclaimer: Obviously the combination of religion and government is a huge subject, and it would take thousands of words to tackle completely. I’m going to look at this issue on a smaller scale in Tennessee.

Recently at Tennessee University a scandal broke out over a pregame prayer ritual that the players, coaches and fans said before the game.

The controversy is because Tennessee is a state-funded school, and the university’s fans and players to join in a prayer that repeatedly invokes the name of God. This offends certain non-religious and non-Christian groups that hold different beliefs.

Although they are not forced to participate, it is still obviously Christian-biased. Annie Gaylor, Freedom From Religion Foundation President said to USA Today as much. “They’ve been praying to Jesus and inviting clergy to come lead the prayer,” said Gaylor to USA Today. She also mentioned to USA Today, “nonsectarian would be you wouldn’t have a member of the clergy who’s tied to a denomination.”

It offends me personally because I don’t see the need for the school to force religion on people, as people should be able to choose how and when to express their religion. By asking fans to participate in a pregame prayer, in a state that is majority Christian, the prayer puts the non-Christian fans in attendance feel uncomfortable. This should not be allowed.

It also shows a bit of incongruity, as another Tennessee government-funded college recently stopped saying prayers before games, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

I believe that the school should stop asking fans and players to take part in the pregame prayer, instead either skipping the ritual altogether, or changing it to a moment of silence. I believe the prayer should be disallowed because the University of Tennessee is a government-funded organization and therefore it cannot endorse any particular religion.

This ritual not only violated the US Constitution by being a combination of church and state, but it also creates an awkward moment for all non-Christians in attendance.

I would know firsthand, as I participated in YMCA sports at a young age and had to sit through a prayer to God before each game. While the YMCA can do that as it is a privately owned and funded organization, the University of Tennessee is part of the state college program, and funded by the government.

I strongly feel that because taxpayer money goes into it, that it can not and should not be promoting a certain religion.

According to a recent survey, Tennessee has a Christian population of nearly 3.5 million people, with no other religion even up to six digits. This fact may cause some to say that since it is such an overwhelming majority that it should be okay, but even non-Christians pay taxes. The continued use of taxpayer money for a program that promotes Christianity is a direct violation of the Constitution.

The counterargument to this would be that they should have the right to pray because they are practicing their religion. I disagree with this however, because there is no need for a structured pre-game prayer, as the players and coaches could simply say their prayers before they get to the stadium, or even on their own before the game.

Although I am all for religion and faith, I am not in favor of forcing your religion on everyone else.

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