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Appeals court to hear arguments over football prayer case

Case stems from 2015 high school championship game in Jacksonville

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in a dispute about whether a Tampa Christian school should have been allowed to offer a prayer over a stadium loudspeaker before a state high-school football championship game.

Cambridge Christian School filed a lawsuit against the Florida High School Athletic Association and appealed after a U.S. district judge upheld a decision by the association that blocked the offering of a prayer over the loudspeaker before a championship game in 2015 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.

The school argues that the association, which governs high-school sports in Florida, violated First Amendment rights by barring the prayer. But U.S. District Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell, in ruling against the school last year, wrote that the association had procedures that included allowing a designated public-address announcer to use the loudspeaker for approved announcements. Honeywell wrote that opening the loudspeaker for a prayer would be “perceived as state endorsement of Cambridge Christian's religious message.”

The case focuses on a 2015 championship game between Cambridge Christian and Jacksonville's University Christian School. The teams gathered a mid-field for a pregame prayer, though it was not broadcast over the loudspeaker.

The case will be heard Sept. 26, 2018 at 9 a.m. at the United States Courthouse in Jacksonville, Florida.