The guerrilla action is being endorsed by two groups, following the June ruling by the Supreme Court that a Texas school district's policy of allowing voluntary pregame prayer was unconstitutional.
Now Christian students and spectators are being challenged to join in saying the Lord's prayer after the playing of the national anthem. "Of course we know that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will go berserk," said Donald Wildmon, president of the American Family Association (AFA). "But, on the other hand, there is no way the Supreme Court can stop this because it is simply individuals participating on their own, without any leader."
The AFA is promoting the stand through its "Action Alert" mailing and its 200-strong radio network. "The constitution says that Congress shall not prohibit the free exercise of religion," Wildmon said. "This is a form of that free exercise-albeit a symbolic one."
The "spontaneous prayer" effort is also being advocated by the leaders of We Still Pray, a movement begun by a group of pastors and Christian leaders in Asheville, N.C. A week ago they drew around 35,000 people to a public prayer rally that caused gridlock in city streets for hours. Since then they have been contacted by groups wanting to start similar efforts in other parts of the country.
The Lord's prayer recitation was "not in defiance of the Supreme Court," said Wendell Runion, owner of a Christian radio station in Asheville who helped organize last week's rally. He told The Asheville Citizen-Times: "If the fans break out in spontaneous prayer, there is no Supreme Court ruling against that."
Paul Ott, a Mississippi radio host who has spread the word about the prayer stand in five states on his radio show, told the Associated Press (AP) that participants should avoid a legal confrontation. "We don't think this is breaking the law, but if it is.I don't think they're going to take thousands of people to jail."
The initiative has received strong support from the likes of Scott Edwards, son of a Baptist pastor and wide receiver at his Bogue Chitto, Miss., high school. "We have a very strong Christian atmosphere here," he told the AP: "I feel like people have a right to express their Christian views. This is a community thing."
Jim Keith, the attorney for the school district, said that as long as the school was not organizing the prayer, there would be no problem. "If fans are sitting in the stand, and they want to branch out and say the Lord's prayer, or some prayer to Allah or whoever, they can do that."
But David Ingebretsen of the ACLU was not so sure. "It seems to be that a planned spontaneous prayer cannot be spontaneous, and it violates the court's ruling," he told the AP. "If this planned, spontaneous prayer happens, it forces everyone there to hear that prayer or to participate."