Fort Gibson circumvents prayer ban

Friday, October 27th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

FORT GIBSON, Okla. (AP) -- Students and football fans are circumventing a U.S. Supreme Court ban on school prayer over public address systems at high school football games.

Instead of praying over the PA, students this season have been taking the field for prayer before games. The fans are joining them in the stands. Halftime shows also include Christian music.

In a 6-3 ruling in June, the Supreme Court said student-led, student-initiated prayer using school sound systems violates the separation of church and state.

But Fort Gibson has joined a growing list of schools working to legally bypass the ruling.

When football season started, students began meeting on the field for prayer before games and joining hands in prayer. Fans in the seats began doing the same.

"They made that law saying we can't do it, and this is our way of saying we're going to do it," senior Sarah Baumann said. "I think it's really a neat idea."

Initially, the crowd on the field was small, but more joined in each game. The crowd covered nearly the entire field before a recent game with Broken Bow.

Both teams and game officials waited to take the field until after the prayer. Students held signs asking the crowd to "please stand and pray with us." About 1,500 fans did.

"They're getting the hang of it now," said senior Rob Brown, president of the school's Teens for Christ club and Fort Gibson's Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter who spearheaded the prayer initiative.

Students said they haven't heard any complaints.

The entire community supports the displays, high school principal Gary Sparks said.

"All the response I've gotten is very positive," Sparks said.

"The parents are glad the kids are taking the initiative to have a positive influence on the community."

At halftime, the marching band began a recent show by bowing in prayer. Band performances included four Christian songs.

A flag bearing a cross was waved throughout the show, which was capped off by a human cross formed by band members. Local churches also sponsored an after-game party.