WASHINGTON (RNS)--As students prepare to gather aroundschool flagpoles for an annual prayer event, leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention and a prominent law firm have reminded pastors and school officials that "See You at the Pole" remains legal.
In the wake of a Supreme Court decision finding a Texas school policy permitting student-led prayer before football games unconstitutional, organizations and individuals continue to plan a variety of prayer-related events that are permitted.
Some are advocating prayers before and after the flagpole events that will occur at the start of the school day on September 20. Others are continuing to encourage people in the stands of football games to pray themselves before the first kickoff.
"The Supreme Court's opinion did not preclude voluntary Bible study and prayer clubs that are student led and student initiated without coerced attendance or actual government sponsorship," wrote the presidents of three Southern Baptist Convention agencies in a letter to pastors posted Monday (September 11) on the denomination's website. "Nor did the case preclude events like See You at the Pole, which are voluntary in attendance and not 'sponsored' by the school."
A postcard with a brief, but similar, message was sent September 8 to more than 40,000 churches in the denomination.
"The whole issue of that Supreme Court ruling of Santa Fe [Independent School District] vs. Doe left some real question marks in the minds of pastors or church leaders as to 'What can our kids do and what can they not do?'" said SBC North American Mission Board President Bob Reccord in an interview.
"So we felt it very important, under the First Amendment rights, to let them know what their rights are."
Reccord signed the letter and postcard, along with Richard Land, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and James Draper, president of the SBC LifeWay Christian Resources, which publishes Sunday school and other Christian materials.
Similar sentiments were voiced in a letter sent in August to the nation's school superintendents by the American Center for Law and Justice, the Virginia-based law firm founded by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson.
The letter written by ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow says the Santa Fe decision does not prevent students from expressing their faith in a variety of ways--such as in class assignments or on jewelry.
"Nor does Santa Fe affect the right of students to engage in religious expression through Bible clubs, one-on-one discussion, literature distribution, student-initiated activities such as See You atthe Pole, and a myriad of other channels of communication, including private prayers," Sekulow wrote.
Along with groups like the Southern Baptists and the ACLJ, the organization that promotes See You at the Pole has worked to clarify thelegality of the event.
"It has created a little bit of confusion," said Doug Clark, promotion coordinator for the event and director of field ministries forthe San Diego-based National Network of Youth Ministries.
But officials of several groups representing principals and administrators on the national and state level said they aren't aware ofnew questions from local schools.
Whether legal questions arise, plans for prayer on school campuses continue in an array of activities.
Organizers of TheCallDC, a September 2 gathering of tens of thousands of Christian teens and adults on the National Mall, are urging students to consider fasting and praying for 40 days from the day See You at the Pole is observed through October 29.
Catherine Paine, communications coordinator for TheCallDC, said students are being asked to pray for spiritual revival in the country and their schools and for the upcoming election and its influence on future Supreme Court appointments.
"We're calling teenagers in this country to go before the Supreme Court in heaven to affect the Supreme Court on earth," said Paine, who is based in Pasadena, Calif. "We've seen a lot of decisions that really don't reflect a biblical morality."
Other school-related prayer efforts include organized prayer walks around campuses on the night before See You at the Pole events, prayers for students and teachers at special church services on the weekend before, and the new emphasis on individual prayers at high school football games.
Sekulow's firm offered to represent any school district sued for allowing "spontaneous prayer" at football games.
"So far, there hasn't been a shot fired across the bow at all," he said in an interview. "There's probably more prayer at football games today than ever went on prior to Santa Fe. It's done legally."
Tim Wildmon, vice president of the Mississippi-based American FamilyAssociation, said he's received reports from 70 communities where peoplehave prayed in the stands at football games just after the national anthem in protest of the high court's decision.
"I think it not only will continue but grow," Wildmon predicted.