House panel proposes bill to allow prayer on loudspeaker before high school games

A house panel gave the thumbs up this week to a proposal that would require the Florida High School Athletics Association and other organizations to allow schools to use a stadium's loudspeaker before championship games.

This legislation comes as the FHSAA and Cambridge Christian School in Tampa are in the midst of a nearly six-year-long lawsuit. The FHSAA denied the school's request to use the loudspeaker at Orlando's Camping World Stadium for a pre-game prayer against a team from a Christian school in Jacksonville in 2016.

The First Liberty Institute is representing Cambridge Christian School in the lawsuit.

"The message that the FHSAA is sending to these students is that prayer in public is wrong, it's something to be hidden, to be put away, that's far from the reality," said Jeremy Dys, Special Council for First Liberty.

The FHSAA claimed it was against federal law to use the loudspeaker for prayer because the Citrus Bowl facility is public property and it would be illegal for a state governing body to allow it.

The bill making its way in Tallahassee would require associations to allow two-minute opening remarks on a stadium's loudspeaker.

"There has always been an opportunity for an inspirational remark, a prayer, a word of encouragement for these students," said Rep. Webster Barnaby who sponsored the bill.

State representatives voting against the bill say prayers before games might make students uncomfortable.

"In a game that will have players that may consist of all types of faiths, all types of backgrounds, now they are imposed on or they have to sit through a prayer possibly of another faith," said Rep. Christopher Benjamin.

The proposal still needs to clear the House Education and Employment Committee before going to the full house.

A Senate version has not been heard in committees.