Contrary to David Moulton's recent sports column, the Freedom From Religion Foundation does not just "feel the prayer before every University of Tennessee football game is unconstitutional." We know it is.
We received complaints by students and alumni that the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, a public-supported institution, is inviting Christian clergy to lead sectarian (in this case, Christian) prayers over the public-address system. Our letter to UT cited a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, which is binding in Tennessee, approving only nonsectarian prayers or a moment of silence at public university events.
Up to a quarter of today's college students identify themselves as "nonreligious," whether atheist, agnostic or indifferent. It is not only unconstitutional for a public university to inflict prayers upon nonbelievers or those who believe in other gods, it is boorish.
Imagine if prayers to Allah were routinely hosted by UT at its public events, with almost exclusively Muslim imams invited to intone religiously-exclusionary prayers. Christians would be in an uproar. It is equally inappropriate and divisive for a public university, supported by taxpayers of all and no religious persuasions, which is home to many foreign students as well, to arrange for Christian clergy to lead or impose prayer over a loud speaker upon a captive audience. Spectators are there to watch players, not recite prayers.
After being told by UT's chancellor in a letter dated Sept. 17 that it keeps its prayers nonsectarian, we received a video of UT's Sept. 15 game against Florida, in which an Assemblies of God minister led the entire stadium in a recitation of the Lord's Prayer.
The Lord's Prayer is an exclusively Christian prayer, both versions of which stem from the New Testament and can be found in the Gospel of Matthew 6:9-13 and the Gospel of Luke 11:2-4. Public universities must serve all, not just Christians, and are there to educate, not to proselytize.
Moulton's idea of "fun" as a 10-year-old was to yell out "under God" as he recited the Pledge of Allegiance in front of an atheist student. Only bullies seek to impose their personal religious views upon the unwilling.