A battle over pre-game prayers is under way in Chattanooga, Tenn. after a Wisconsin-based group sent a letter objecting to invocations delivered before football games at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to chancellor at UTC urging them to stop opening football games or any other university function with prayer.
The FFRF is a a Wisconsin-based group whose purpose is to “protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state”
“Prayers as part of university athletic events is particularly problematic when the prayers include sectarian or proselytizing devotions, such as praying in the name of Jesus Christ,” wrote FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor in her letter to the university.
“Sectarian practices demonstrate the university’s apparent endorsement not only of religion over non-religion, but also of Christianity and its evangelical forms over other faiths,” she added.
The FFRF made particular mention of a prayer delivered by a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. That particular prayer referenced the name “Jesus Christ.”
FFRF said they were representing someone who attended the game and was apparently offended by the prayer.
UTC Associate Vice Chancellor Chuck Cantrell confirmed to Fox News that they had received the letter and were currently discussing their options.
“We have not responded back to them at this point,” he said.
Cantrell said prayer has been a longtime tradition at the university – which was originally a private institution.
“The joke is we are the buckle of the Bible belt,” he told Fox News. “It would not be unheard of or unusual for us to have some kind of invocation at an event.”
Students at the public university are in favor of keeping the tradition.
“It’s outrageous, it’s outlandish, it’s hurtful,” said Cory Garrett with Campus Ministries. His organization is planning to organize events to save the pre-game prayer.
“The body of Christ must come together and defend not our belief – but defend our faith,” Garrett told Fox News. “With these recent attacks on prayer, no matter what the law says, prayer will be available here at UTC.”
The university is being a bit coy on whether they will allow an invocation at the opening season football game.
“Come to the game on September 13th and see what we do,” Cantrell said.