Without a loudspeaker announcement, a group of young people and adults gathered just off the field at the Soddy-Daisy football game Friday to pray before the kick-off against Cleveland.
As announcers honored football players and cheerleaders on Senior Night, a Soddy-Daisy police officer escorted a group of people assembled in front of the stands onto the grass just behind the goal posts.
Dozens of people came out of the home and visitor stands for a prayer led by Soddy-Daisy senior Shelton Brown.
Afterward, Brown said he was surprised how many people turned out.
"We weren't allowed to announce we were doing it," he said.
He said school officials also told him the prayer couldn't be held on the football field.
Brown said people wanted to demonstrate their desire to pray after schools Superintendent Jim Scales recently ordered a halt to prayers over the loudspeaker at football games and other school events. The ban came after some Soddy-Daisy students complained to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Brown said most of his classmates agree with him, but he was quick to note there were people on both sides of the argument over prayer in school.
Soddy-Daisy Mayor Gene Shipley and Commissioner Jim Adams joined the prayer group.
"I'm ready to defy Washington and the Supreme Court," Adams said. "I don't have a problem with it at all."
Adams said America is a nation where majority rules, but some people's agendas are dominating the country.
"I think this is a way of defying and sending a message that this isn't right," Adams said. "It's just as much our right to pray as it is anybody's right not to."
Dawn Sheaffer and her daughter, a Soddy-Daisy High School student, also joined the group.
"Look around at the support, even on the other side [of the field] they are coming out onto the field with us," said Sheaffer, adding that she came to the game just to cheer the students on. "We are all here to peacefully exercise our right to say a prayer for both teams."
Soddy-Daisy freshman Zach Ireland said it's a long-standing tradition to pray before the game.
After Scales halted the prayers, Soddy-Daisy players were invited to pray when they visited Rhea County for a game last week.
Since then, the Rhea County Schools has received its own letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Contact Staff Writer Jeremy Belk at email@example.com or 423-757-6345.