Prayers before games put on hold at West Branch High School - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Prayers before games put on hold at West Branch High School

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BELOIT, Ohio -

A southern Mahoning County school district is no longer saying a prayer before sporting events.

The school's superintendent says it all stemmed from a local complaint that got a national organization involved.

West Branch Superintendent Tim Saxton said he received a complaint letter from The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an anti-Christian organization, based out of Madison, Wisconsin.

The letter claimed a prayer performed at a public school sporting event violates the constitution and does not provide for a separation between church and state.

The district's legal counsel advised the school board to temporarily cease the prayers until more research could be done to quote, "See how far this could go."

"It's not a matter of whether we truly care what this foundation thinks, it's making sure we apply the correct legal status to make sure we do what we are supposed to do in terms of the law," said Saxton.

The president of the West Branch Ministerial Association said he does not believe the complaint represents what the community wants or needs. He also says the constitution allows people to freely express their religious beliefs.

"There's always been that strong faith presence in the community. It's important to this community. We're going to be here to support the school district no matter what. Pray for them and pray with them. And if there are things we are called to help them with we will continue that relationship with them," said Pastor Mark Reich.

The superintendent says he is hopeful the district will eventually bring back the prayers once the legal investigation is completed.

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