School Prayer Heard Over Intercom, Goes Viral on Social Media
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF)- A viral video on social media has caused controversy over a school prayer that was heard over an intercom at Bess T. Shepherd Elementary School in Chattanooga.
In the video, a neighbor to the school recorded about two minutes of footage where they could overhear an unknown speaker leading a prayer over the school’s intercom system. This raised questions about if there were students on property when this occurred.
Hamilton County Schools released the following statement.
“This morning, Hamilton County Schools, was made aware of a video circulating on social media showing Bess T. Shepherd Elementary on Monday, Oct 17, 2022 around 6:00 p.m. In the video, viewers can hear prayers being played through the school’s external intercom system. We are continuing to investigate the incident. At this time we are aware there were staff members inside the building praying, who were unaware the external intercom system was enabled. As soon as they were made aware, the intercoms were turned off. No students were present during the time this occurred. Those who were present at the gathering were there voluntarily, and while the intercom being on was unfortunate, nothing prevents adults from voluntarily gathering in this way.”
Historically, the 1962 Supreme Court decision in Engel v. Vitale and the 1963 Supreme Court decision in Abington v. Schempp, has prevented school officials from leading students in organized prayer on public school campuses. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled in Kennedy v. Bremerton that a football coach could pray on his own after games, opening the door to more protections for prayers in schools.