KNOXVILLE – The prayers before Tennessee football games will go on.
That was the message University of Tennessee Chancellor Jimmy Cheek had in response to a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) directed at the University for allowing prayer at school events, in particular before home football games.
“I appreciate your concern about this issue, and I want to assure you that I have given this issue careful consideration. At this time, however, the University will continue to allow prayers before University events,” Cheek wrote in a letter posted on the school’s website, and addressed to Annie Gaylor, the Co-President of the FFRF, an organization based out of Madison, Wis.
Cheek also cited a decision of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Chaudhuri v. State of Tennessee.
The opening line of the 1997 court decision reads: “The question presented here is whether a nonsectarian prayer or moment of silence at a public university function violates the First Amendment. We answer the question ‘no.’ ”
A nonsectarian prayer is defined as one that is not limited or associated to one particular religion.
UTC recently switched from a pregame prayer to a moment of silence at football games after it received a letter with concerns from the FFRF.
"This is becoming a very diverse city, and there are faiths from all around the world who live on this campus and live in this community," UTC Chancellor Roger Brown told the Times Free Press on Sept. 10. "I don't think a public university should be a place where anyone feels uncomfortable to be. I want this place to be a meeting of minds and scholarship, as well as activity and joy. And anyone who comes here and feels excluded, it's a bad thing."
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @Daniel_LewisCBS.