Two Christian high schools from Illinois facing off in a high-stakes football playoff game were banned from using a public address system for prayer before the game in compliance with the state's school association policy.
The football teams from the Aurora Central Catholic High School and the Wheaton Academy, a Christian school in West Chicago, competed in playoffs this week.
Students and school officials had expected to begin the sports event as they typically do as Christians: with prayer for the athletes' protection from injury, for good sportsmanship, and for safe travels for all of them after the game.
The Christian schools, however, were not allowed to use the public address system for their prayer. Craig Anderson, executive director of the Illinois High School Association, explained to The Chicago Tribune that the playoff public prayer ban has been in place for "a long time."
He said there has been no attempt to change this policy, although no one can say for certain why there is such a rule.
Aurora Central Catholic athletic director Sean Bieterman, however, expressed disappointment over the public prayer ban, and even described the school association's policy as "degrading."
"It is frustrating to be told what you can and cannot do, when that is not consistent with school policy throughout the school year," Bieterman told The Chicago Tribune.
He said the policy ought to be changed, saying that it runs counter to his and his students' Catholic faith.
"All year, every day at school, our kids pray," Bieterman said. "It's part of who we are as Catholics. Whether it's a game, whether it's the classroom, whether it's the beginning of the day or the end of the day, we're viewing us as being in God's presence, and we're taking time to acknowledge that and respect that on a daily basis."