Football Prayer Forgone

HOUSTON--A Texas teenager has decided not to lead her classmates in prayer before high school football games, fearing her role in a constitutional battle could lead to her expulsion.

Stephanie Vega had been elected by other students to deliver short messages "solemnizing" each of the Santa Fe Indians' home games. But the 16-year-old junior changed her mind on Wednesday.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this year that student-led prayers may be conducted at solemn events such as graduations. But the court ruled out prayers before football games, saying they don't share the "singularly serious nature" of graduations.

Superintendent Richard Ownby had warned that any student who leads prayers at the Sept. 3 football game "would be disciplined as if they had cursed."

"When a student is told by the government that she may say anything except a prayer, and if she does pray, she will be disciplined as if she had cursed, it is just too much pressure," Vega said in a statement. "I do not want to be expelled from school for using the word 'God' in a reverent manner."

Ownby said he regrets his comparison.

"It was a poor choice of examples on my part," he said. "But it is my belief that you have to deal with a student that prays the same as any other student that does something you told them not to do."


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