FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – In the heart of high school football season, prayers are silenced in the stands.
The American Civil Liberties Union is cracking down on schools all over the state for any religious practice done during school activities. This includes praying before a game, a tradition that coaches say helps unify the athletes as a team.
"We've always said, if you don't believe in this, and don't want to do this, you don't have to. You won't be punished for it," says Coach Trey Woodberry, the football coach with West Florence High School.
Coaches cannot initiate prayers before a game, but students at some schools think it is still an important part of game night. They will start a voluntary prayer for them and their teammates.
"When the new regulations came down, I told my athletes I could not start the prayer. So 1,2,3 all stepped up, said 'we want to keep doing this,' you know, and they do it all. I don't say anything, its all them, and that's how it has to be with the new rules and the law," says Coach Woodberry.
Coaches understand that football is not just about the game that is played on the field, but incorporates life lessons that the students carry with them in life. For many, this includes religion.
"Football makes them tough, yes. But it also teaches them how to be motivated, how to be on time. Habits they carry into the corporate world, or into college," says Woodberry.
Woodberry says many of the students are friends off the field. They spend time with their teammates, and this can include going to church.
A Florence County Attorney explains that the Supreme Court is trying to prevent an establishment of religion within schools. This also restricts school board members from praying before the meeting.
"The God I serve wants me to resound, wants me to make a joyful noise, and that's what I intend to do," say Pat Gibson-Hye Moore, the School Board Secretary with Florence County School District 1 Board.
Members now have a moment of silence before the meetings, but Moore says that is not enough.
"I want to pray to God aloud, I want to ask for wisdom, strength, and guidance," explains Moore.
She decided to start praying aloud before last week's meeting, even though technically it is against the law.
"You're saying I can't say this aloud, I can't pray to God. But people can say whatever they want to say on television, that's not helping them morally or mentally," says Moore.
The attorney explained that while certain government entities can say prayers before a meeting, the school board is exempt from this clause because it is integrated in with the school system. As soon as Moore puts herself in the public as a school board secretary, she takes away her right as a private citizen to say a prayer.
This does not deter Moore, or her message.
"I'm not going to let the ACLU, Supreme Court stop me. This is a fight that I believe in, people fight for their beliefs, and this is what I stand for," expresses Moore.
The secretary says she respects everyone's right to their own religion, and would not be offended if someone wanted to voice their own, differing beliefs.