Cambridge Christian School, Inc. v. Florida High School Athletic Association, Inc. (USCA 11th Circuit, 2017)

Separation of Church & State
Separation of Church & State

This case raises a novel school-prayer issue. Cambridge Christian School (“Cambridge”) is a private religious school and a member of the Florida High School Athletic Association (“Association”), which is a public entity. Cambridge’s football team made it into a division playoff game, which was to be played in a public stadium under the Association’s control. The school requested that the team’s customary pre-game, group prayer be broadcast over the stadium’s PA system, which was denied. The Association, however, permitted the team to hold its pre-game prayer on the center of the field. In response, Cambridge filed a lawsuit alleging free speech and free exercise claims under the First Amendment, as well as a claim under the Florida Religious Freedom Restoration Act. ADL joined an amicus brief filed by multiple civil rights organizations asserting that under longstanding U.S. Supreme Court school prayer precedents, the Association was required to deny the request because broadcasting the prayer over a government-controlled PA system would have resulted in unconstitutional religious coercion of students and other persons attending the game.