Hall County Superintendent says faculty-led prayers are off limits

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HALL COUNTY, Ga. —

As Chestatee High School football players warm up for the coming season, the Hall County superintendent is trying to cool down the controversy over prayer at school activities including football games.

“I think they should let them pray,” said parent Jason Miller. “I mean they're not doing it inside the school right? They should be able to do what they want.”

An Atheist group, American Humanist Association, got ahold of photos of football players praying on the field supposedly being led by their coaches. The group is now threatening to sue, claiming the students' rights are being violated.

“It should be up to the teachers and the coaches,” said Miller. “If they want to do it they should be able to do it.”

Students at the school have organized prayers on the field and there's growing support from groups at other Hall County schools. Channel 2 Action News found Twitter photos that show groups at East Hall and North Hall High School holding prayers.

This week, however, Superintendent Will Schofield sent a letter to staff saying the prayers led by staff and coaches are “off-limits.”

"Employees may live out their faith in a variety of ways; however, they must not be leading students in prayer during school or school-sponsored activities, nor may they require or pressure students to participate in religious activities,” Schofield’s email said.

"I think that's pretty smart way of looking at things,” said district employee Philip Nelson.

Nelson says he agrees with the superintendent’s message.

“That allows the students to still express their religious preferences, but puts the limits on what the faculty and the staff can do,” said Nelson.

The group threatening to sue, however, says it doesn't go far enough.

"It's clear that non-Christians feel that the atmosphere of Christian privilege is overwhelming, and the Schofield statement seems more concerned about appeasing the majority than addressing that problem,” wrote attorney David Niose with the American Humanist Association.