IHSA prohibits play-off prayers

A new policy from the IHSA is disappointing to some Tri-State parochial schools.

Last week the Illinois High School Association announced it would no longer allow prayer over public address systems at IHSA play-off games.

We dug deeper to find out more about the new policy for this KHQA FactFinder report. IHSA executive director Marty Hickman says the move was made after extensive discussions with communities and IHSA lawyers following this year's football playoffs.

What prompted the prayer rule?

Hickman said, "We had complaints from public schools who were participating at games hosted by private schools. Our position really always has been that prayer should not take place at our events but we had never formalized a policy."

Hickman told KHQA the important thing schools have to remember is when they host a post season game, it is hosted by the IHSA, not the school.

He says the IHSA has to abide by the law of the land, a supreme court ruling from 2000 which prohibits prayer at such events. Hickman added neighboring states like Missouri already have a policy like this in place.

The prayer ban does not include games during the regular season.

KHQA checked in with Routt Catholic High School to find out how this policy will affect its student body.

Routt Catholic High school students in Jacksonville start every day off with a prayer. Prayer also leads off each school board meeting and sporting event. In fact before each game, athletes say the athletes prayer written by a long time coach at the school. So hearing about this new IHSA no-prayer postseason policy is disappointing to say the least.

Routt Catholic High School Principal Gale Thoroman said, "My first reaction is really of disappointment. At the present time the supreme court has taken prayer, taken the pledge of allegiance, we're allowing only one stance, the atheist, that's grossly unfair that we're taking away the religious stance. Students are only hearing one thing. I think there needs to be equal representation."

Routt Athletic Director Barry Creviston said, "It was a shock at first but with how things have gone in the past it was only a matter of time before someone complained at a Catholic event."

Routt Catholic High school has never received a complaint about prayer. Principal Gale Thoroman says most of the time the opposing team joins in with an "Amen." But both Thoroman and Athletic Director Barry Creviston say no matter how they feel about the no-prayer policy, Routt Catholic will abide by the new ruling. Even though the athlete's prayer won't be heard over the intercom...that doesn't mean students won't bow their heads to prepare for the play-off games.

Creviston said, "Overall our kids will pray as a group with their coach or on their own. I don't think it will switch anything they do pre-game."

The new ruling does not affect regular season games, so you can be sure you'll hear the traditional athlete's prayer at all Routt athletic events for many years to come.

We spoke with officials at Quincy Notre Dame to see how this ruling would affect the school. Officials there say they currently do not have a public prayer before any of their athletic events.