Oklahoma association votes to allow moment of silence at high school playoff events

by Lee Warren, Newswriter |
Students pray on a football field in North Dakota. | Mark Armstrong via Facebook

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (CHRISTIAN EXAMINER) — A high school activities association has said there can be a moment of silence before playoff contests, but warned the events are still not an "open public forum" as it relates to the expression of "political, philosophical, (or) religious" views.

The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (OSSAA) voted unanimously Nov. 11 in favor of a new policy that will allow for a moment of silence before playoff contests, according to KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City.

Christian Examiner reached out to the OSSAA for clarification and OSSAA responded by sending a copy of the new policy regarding the use of the public address systems at OSSAA events.

The new policy, in full states:

"The public address system at an OSSAA event site is not to be used as an open public forum for the expression of views by individuals or organizations concerning political, philosophical, religious, or other matters unrelated to the conduct of the event, or the management and safe use of the event site.

"The school or other organization providing the facility for an OSSAA playoff or championship event may permit a moment of silence prior to the start of all activities, to permit persons at the event to reflect, meditate, pray or engage in any other silent activity that does not interfere with, distract, or impede other persons at the event in the exercise of their individual choices during this moment of silence.

"If the school or other organization providing the facility chooses to permit a moment of silence, the following announcement shall be given: 'We will now recognize a moment of silence so that you may, if you choose, reflect, meditate, pray, or engage in other silent activity. Please be respectful of others during this moment of silence.'"

According to "The Oklahoman" newspaper website, Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt said in October that prayer before high school sporting events can be done legally in his opinion.

Jacob Unruh, who wrote a story for "The Oklahoman," about the situation tweeted a statement from Pruitt's office Nov. 11 regarding the change in policy:

"As my office opined previously, OSSAA's policy banning student-led prayer at high school sporting events was constitutionally overbroad. My office worked with OSSAA officials to amend the policy and today's decision to reverse the ban on student-led prayer brings OSSAA policy in line with our constitutional liberties. This decision is a victory for the right of all Oklahomans to freely exercise their religious beliefs in accordance with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. I commend OSSAA and its officials for making the change to accommodate the religious liberty of Oklahoma students and parents."

The OSSAA, which dates back to 1911, is an association that includes athletics, music, speech, debate, drama, competitive cheerleading and academic bowl competitions, according to the association's website. More than 100,000 students participate in the state's athletic and non-athletic programs. It operates as a private, non-profit organization.