Tomorrow, Wednesday, September 24, millions of students worldwide are expected to gather to pray on their campuses. See You at the Pole (SYATP), the global day of student prayer, began in 1990 with 10 students in Burleson, TX praying at their school.
“Never Stop Praying” (Ephesians 6:18) is the theme for this year’s SYATP event. The 2014 theme verse follows the Apostle Paul’s well known passage on the armor of God which challenges followers of Christ to stand strong in the Lord and to boldly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
SYATP since 1990 has been held every fourth Wednesday in September. Students will meet to pray at their school’s flagpole at 7:00a in their time zone. Students are encouraged to pray for their school, friends, teachers and administrators, families, churches and communities.
Accompanying SYTAP this week is the Global Week of Student Prayer that started on Sunday, September 21st and ends on Saturday, September 27th. The week is designed to encourage students to find new and unique ways, places and times to pray throughout the week. Organizers state that the week is dedicated to prayer and for launching on-campus Bible clubs, prayer strategies and student ministries.
No one officially sponsors the event. Approximately 100 church denominations, nonprofit ministries, and other organizations support SYATP. They promote, endorse and encourage their students to participate. The Baptist General Convention of Texas owns the trademark for the See You At The Pole name. Student Discipleship Ministries creates and distributes the promotional materials. The National Network of Youth Ministries coordinates the promotion and media relations.
Daryl Nuss, executive director of the National Network of Youth Ministries, said in a released statement, “See You at the Pole empowers students in prayer at the beginning of the school year to take leadership at their schools.”
“Students don’t abandon their constitutional freedoms at the schoolhouse gate,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “They continue to have the freedom to peacefully express their beliefs while at school, and that certainly includes prayer. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech for all students, regardless of the students’ religious or political beliefs.”
Some public schools in the past prevented students from sharing about and participating in the event often citing the First Amendment’s establishment clause
The Alliance Defending Freedom legal memo explains that “students have a constitutional right to participate in SYATP through prayer and worship activities” and “have constitutional rights to inform their fellow students about the SYATP event as long as they do not materially disrupt the academic process while doing so.”
The legal memo also notes that the Supreme Court has ruled that “religious speech is protected by the First Amendment and may not be singled out for discrimination.” With respect to prayer specifically, the high court wrote in 2000 that “nothing in the Constitution as interpreted by this Court prohibits any public school student from voluntarily praying at any time before, during, or after the school day.”
“The First Amendment protects the freedom of students to participate in ‘See You at the Pole’ and its prayer and worship activities,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. “Anyone who says otherwise is misinformed. The purpose of our legal memo is to clarify the freedom of students to hold and participate in this annual event.”