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Judge urges rejecting lawsuit over football game prayer

Dispute over whether loudspeaker could be used for prayer before football game

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A federal magistrate judge has recommended dismissal of a lawsuit alleging that the Florida High School Athletic Association violated the rights of a Christian school by not allowing the use of a loudspeaker for a prayer before a football championship game.

Tampa's Cambridge Christian School filed the lawsuit last year and alleged that the athletic association violated the U.S. Constitution and Florida Constitution in denying a request to use the public-address system at Orlando's Camping World Stadium for a pre-game prayer before the school played University Christian School in a championship game in December 2015.

U.S. District Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell in October referred the case to Magistrate Judge Amanda Arnold Sansone, who filed a 36-page recommendation Friday.

Sansone said the case should be dismissed, in part because the teams were able to pray on the field before the game --- though they couldn't use the loudspeaker.

"Nowhere in the verified amended complaint (filed by Cambridge) is there a single allegation that Cambridge Christian or any of its members were deprived of their right to pray at the championship game," Sansone wrote. "On the contrary, both Cambridge Christian's team and the opposing team were permitted to pray together at the most centrally focused and public area of the stadium --- the 50-yard line. To be clear, the verified amended complaint is silent as to any allegations that the players or others, including the fans, administrators, and teachers, were in any way discouraged from praying at any point before, during or after the championship game. There are no allegations that Cambridge Christian was prohibited from passing out flyers with pre-printed prayers or that the cheerleaders were prohibited from holding up large signs spelling out prayers for those in the stands to say in concert with the team."