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Republican gubernatorial candidate David Williams is calling on Democratic Governor Steve Beshear to defend Kentucky’s longstanding practice of having local ministers offer an invocation before high school athletic events.

“A Kentucky Department of Education attorney told Bell County school officials that allowing Christian prayer at the beginning of football games is unconstitutional and recommended they ‘cease this activity immediately,'” reports WFPL radio in Louisville.

Williams says the governor is ignoring the religious freedom of Kentuckians by not coming out in support of their First Amendment rights. Such groups as the American Civil Liberties Union have been on a 40-year campaign to end all such traditions.

“I call on Gov. Beshear to denounce this attack on prayer at public functions and lead the efforts of state government to defend our citizens’ right to voluntarily pray anywhere they choose,” said Williams.

He accused the governor of “a troubling history of failing to protect our precious freedom of religion. As attorney general, he ruled that posting the Ten Commandments in classrooms was unconstitutional. As governor, he decided to call the state’s Christmas tree a ‘holiday tree.’ And now his administration has advised the Bell County school system to end the tradition of praying before football games.”

“David Williams should know that the Department of Education is an independent department, that does not answer to the governor,” responded Beshear spokeswoman Kerri Richardson, who added that the school superintendent had wisely opted to drop the prayers rather than engage in an expensive court battle.

 

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