TALLAPOOSA, Ga. -- Football fans at one west Georgia high school are fighting back against an out-of-state group that forced them to stop praying before games. Hundreds of fans found a way to skirt the law and do it anyway.
For many Georgia high schools praying before a game is just as much of a tradition as the game itself. But more and more schools, like Haralson High School, are being forced to stop those prayers after being challenged by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation.
The group sent the Haralson Rebels a letter last year threatening a lawsuit if they didn't stop the pre-game prayers. In a statement Haralson County School Superintendent Brett Stanton said "It saddens me since my faith is a very important part of my life. However, from a professional standpoint I have a responsibility to protect the school system from litigation."
"They have the law on their side," said Principal Topher Byrnes. For the first time Friday night at a game against Bowdon High School there was no school prayer led by the school.
During a moment of silence before the game hundreds of fans broke out in prayer. In a statement of defiance and faith fans said the Lord's Prayer cleverly slipping under the law that bans school organized prayer.
Fans wore t-shirts that read "Rebels Pray Before We Play", "Our School, Our Prayer" and "We Play Hard But We Pray Even Harder."
"They said it (organized prayer) for the football players and cheerleaders, the band and I don't have a problem with it," said Rhonda Holcumb.
Andy White said he doesn't normally come to the games but did tonight. "I just came to stand up for the students and the school and stand up for Christ," he said.
Principal Byrnes said the spontaneous prayer can be a learning experience for students. "These kinds of events can stir a lot of emotions and if it's channeled in the right way, good things can happen," he said.
Haralson isn't the only Georgia school notified by the Wisconsin Group. They have also demanded that the coach of Ridgeland High School in Rossville Georgia, stop allowing local churches to feed his team before games.
You can follow Kevin on Twitter @kgrowson