After the national anthem ended at Santa Fe High School's home opener Friday, about 200 of the crowd of 4,500 recited ``The Lord's Prayer.'' Protest organizers had boldly predicted that 10,000 Christians would converge at the game.
Those who did pray were drowned out by the loudspeakers--which the high court said could not be used to broadcast a prayer-when the announcer introduced the visiting team.
``It was obvious that the announcer jumped right in after the anthem, and then it was too late to do anything,'' said Becky Frye, mother of a Santa Fe player. ``If people could have appointed a leader for every section, we could have overcome the speaker.''
The Texas-based group No Pray No Play, from the town of Temple, led the movement to encourage Christians to pray as soon as the national anthem was finished at games across the state Friday.
About six people drove 175 miles from Temple to Santa Fe for the prayer session, a few others wore shirts created by No Pray No Play.
``We weren't trying to get everybody on the same line,'' said No Pray No Play spokesman David Newsome. ``We didn't come here and say we were going to orchestrate this thing one-two-three like they're doing out there on the field with the band.''
In June, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that amplified, student-led prayer approved by public school officials crossed the line in the separation of church and state.
The Santa Fe Independent School District was the defendant in the case. After the ruling, it ended its tradition of pre-game prayer.
``The loudspeakers are paid for with our tax dollars, so we should be able to use them as we wish,'' Jackie Nelson, a Santa Fe resident, said from the stands Friday night. ``If other groups want to pray that way, let them put their Buddhas or their wooden statues up and there and pray to their dead gods.''
The prayer advocates had an unusual ally in their argument that the First Amendment gives them the right to free speech, including prayer: the American Civil Liberties Union, which helped successfully argue against the district.
``That is exactly the kind of freedom we're fighting for. The only place we have a concern is if the groups are going to try to get an official place in the program, or use the public address systems,'' said Martin Mayne, president of the Houston chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Friday's recitations paled in comparison to other pre-game expressions of faith at football games around the country since the high court's ruling.
High school football began last week in some states, and prayer demonstrations already have occurred, most notably in Hattiesburg, Miss., when 4,500 fans stood to pray before a game. In Asheville, N.C., 25,000 people gathered at a football stadium for a rally sponsored by a group urging the recitation of ``The Lord's Prayer'' at football games.
In Skiatook, Okla., about 50 people bowed their heads in a pre-game invocation organized by a group of adults Friday.
``We have a 50-year tradition here that will be done away with so easily because a few people don't think it's constitutional for children to pray at school,'' said Kevin Jordan, one of the organizers. ``We just want to have the freedom to pray as we want, without imposing our beliefs on others.''