As a three-year legal battle continues over the issue, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran wants the Florida High School Athletic Association to reconsider policies that prevented Christian schools from offering a prayer over the stadium loudspeaker before a 2015 state championship football game.
Corcoran sent a letter Friday calling on the high-school athletics governing body to “conduct an immediate review of its policies and procedures to ensure religious expression is permitted to the greatest extent possible under the law.”
“I expect this to be heard, addressed and updated at the next available FHSAA Board of Directors meeting,” Corcoran wrote. “Policies that are overbroad or restrictive may deny students their constitutional right to private religious expression. Such policies must be immediately repealed and replaced with policies that are consistent with the religious freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution.”
Corcoran sent the letter to athletic association Executive Director George Tomyn a month after a federal appeals court gave a boost to a lawsuit filed in 2016 by Cambridge Christian School of Tampa, which was denied access to a stadium loudspeaker to offer a pregame prayer before a football championship game at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.
Cambridge Christian filed the lawsuit against the athletic association, arguing that the decision blocking the use of the loudspeaker for the prayer violated First Amendment rights. U.S. District Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell in 2017 dismissed the case, but a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that ruling Nov. 13 and sent the lawsuit back to the lower court.
Honeywell has scheduled a Dec. 30 conference call to discuss the status of the case. Tomyn, who became the athletic association’s executive director in 2017, could not immediately be reached for comment Monday afternoon.
The 2015 game that led to the lawsuit involved Cambridge Christian and Jacksonville’s University Christian School. The athletic association prevented the schools from using the public-address system for a prayer, saying in court documents that such a prayer would have been viewed as “government speech.”
Honeywell agreed with that argument in her decision to dismiss the case, writing that Cambridge Christian’s position “amounts to a request that the FHSAA open its loudspeaker, which otherwise is not accessible to private parties, to allow for prayer to be broadcast during a government controlled and hosted event. This would likewise be perceived as state endorsement of Cambridge Christian’s religious message.”
But in sending the case back to Honeywell last month, the federal appeals court said the issues deserve closer scrutiny.
“The lower court was too quick to pull the trigger insofar as it dismissed the appellants’ (Cambridge’s) free speech and free exercise (of religion) claims,” the 70-page appeals court decision said. “We cannot say whether these claims will ultimately succeed, but Cambridge Christian has plausibly alleged enough to enter the courtroom and be heard.”
In his letter Friday, Corcoran called the facts of the case “deeply troubling.”
“There is a clear difference in government speech endorsing religion and private speech endorsing religion,” he wrote. “The state must not censor private religious speech of its students, even where that speech is given at a state-sponsored event or on public property.”
–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida
Keep the prayers to yourself, in your head, he can still hear ,I promise
Does no more good to spout it out over a loud speaker
Yea for that. The atheists lose a case. God bless America.
Merrill Shapiro says
The Gospel of Matthew Chapter 6:
5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
State Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran says ““There is a clear difference in government speech endorsing religion and private speech endorsing religion. The state must not censor private religious speech of its students, even where that speech is given at a state-sponsored event or on public property.”
I couldn’t agree more. But when that “… private religious speech of its students …” is said loud enough for me to hear, then it is no longer private prayer – it is public prayer. Public prayer does not belong in a secular setting .
If you don’t want to hear prayer, don’t listen. My problem is with those who want to stop players and military from praying That’s wrong and it is their right.
If an announcement of prayer offends you, would asking for a moment of reflection offend, or a moment of silence? The attack on free speech in this country is alarming.
Two CHRISTIAN schools have a game, yet they are not permitted to say a prayer over the loudspeaker because it is owned by the government and would be construed as government endorsement of religion? You’ve got to be kidding me! All of the spectators are presumed okay with religion, being their kids are attending, and the audience is paying their tuition. Heaven forbid a kid hears a prayer, yet the same people who are so adamantly opposed to this have no problem with their kid listening to rap music during practice, where women are “bitches,” drugs and weed are glorified, guns, money, and murder are a common theme, and “my ni**a” is in every other sentence. No wonder the the kids are screwed up.
William Moya says
Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. Karl Marx.
There is a reason why there is a separation of church and state and should remain so. Also, if prayers are allowed, whose prayers are you going to say, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, etc? Oh you say you’re opening the door for everyone, but certainly I don’t believe it.
@It is what it is
No surprises here – corcoran  is a salesman graduated from pat robertson’s bible law school and tax shelter. 
And so it goes – bless their imaginary little hearts.
Why? Why? Why? MUST ANY prayers be audible to others, and why must they be sanctioned by any public authority? If you are a true believer, does not your omnipotent God hear you without any words being spoken at all?
If you are a true believer, is it not much more important that you “live your religious values”, instead of focusing on words being pressed on others? Is it not against the teachings of religions that a strong “moral” life be celebrated over mere words?
Does not a “moral life” include the following?
Now, ask yourself whether “you” truly continue to live a “moral life”, and whether you have, to some degree, set those teachings aside in order to support a corrupt, immoral social and political agenda.
Akmed J. Smith says
So if the muslims want to scream their prayer 6 times a day thru loudspeakers and pray to kill the “infidels”, that would be ok along with the Christians ” The Lords Prayer ” ? I believe its time to keep “prayers” in the churches and mosques, not on a football field.
Beulah Pinion says