- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 3, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota’s High School Activities Association says it has not created a new rule banning prayer at sports games.

The statement comes in response to a Facebook post of praying players that caused a stir.

A photo of the Bismarck St. Mary’s and Kindred football teams praying together after Saturday’s playoff game in Bismarck has been shared more than 2,000 times on Facebook. The post by a local resident states that the activities association “said no public prayers before the game.”

Association Executive Director Matt Fetsch told The Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/1Q80ij4 ) that a prayer can’t be delivered over the public-address system at a postseason game because those games are hosted by the association and not the home team.

Opening prayers haven’t happened at postseason games for 15 years, Fetsch said, since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled such prayer was unconstitutional.

“We’re a public entity, too, so we have to adhere to those state and federal laws,” he said.

Private schools can have prayers over public-address systems when they host regular season games, according to Fetsch. He said the activities association doesn’t have policies or rules prohibiting prayer.

St. Mary’s school chaplain the Rev. Jared Johnson said Kindred players spontaneously joined the prayer after Saturday’s game. He said some Facebook users have implied the prayer was a protest against the activities association.

“For us, prayer is never a sign of protest,” Johnson said. “Prayer is a sign of unity.”

Gerald Vetter, president of Light of Christ Catholic Schools, said St. Mary’s hasn’t had prayers over the public-address system during playoff games in years past. He said the activities association didn’t talk to the school about not doing an opening prayer for Saturday’s game.

“We have not had any conflicts or conversations with the North Dakota High School Activities Association,” Vetter said. “There was no reason to.”

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com

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