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Tennessee High Schooler Leads 50-Yard Line Prayer After New Policy: ‘We Did It Anyway’

Caleb Parke

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A Tennesee high school football player told the Todd Starnes Show Friday he led a prayer in defiance of an out-of-town group because he puts “God before everything.”

Elijah Burgess, the starting tight end for Upperman High School, led his team in a post-game prayer after the school district prohibited coaches.

“The whole team and the cheer squad, so the cheerleaders, dancers, and a good portion of the parents and other team met at the 50-yard line and we prayed there,” Elijah explained.

National radio host Todd Starnes praised Elijah for taking a bold and courageous stand even though there could’ve been blowback.

“Personally, for me, I mean, I couldn’t care less,” Elijah said. “You know, God before everything.”

But the community is still upset coaches cannot lead students in prayer.

“The sad reality is that in the United States of America – a football coach is allowed to take a knee to protest the flag, but he cannot take a knee to pray to Almighty God,” Starnes said.

LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW ON THE TODDCAST PODCAST BELOW:

The following is a rushed transcript of Elijah Burgess on the Todd Starnes Show Friday:

STARNES: [01:35:10] There was a story in the news. Gosh. A couple of weeks back from Eastern Tennessee Oppermann High School, where the school district came under attack by out-of-town atheists over policies regarding prayer. And so the school district implemented a policy that argues prayer should not be included in school activities and that included football games. Well, our next guest had a problem with that. He is a member of the Upper Ran High School football team, and he is on the Patriot mobile newsmaker line right now. Elijah Mullins, Elijah Hope you’re doing well today. [01:35:48][37.8]

BURGESS: [01:35:50] Oh, yeah I am. [01:35:51][1.3]

STARNES: [01:35:52] Wonderful, and I understand you’re calling us from the field house because I assume I suspect you guys of a football game tonight. [01:35:57][5.8]

BURGESS: [01:35:59] Yes, sir. I’m in school at the moment and I’m getting ready for my football game. [01:36:03][3.6]

STARNES: [01:36:03] Well, fantastic. Well, we’re going to get to that in a second here, Elijah. But I would love for you to tell us about what happened there with the prayer at the football game. [01:36:16][12.7]

BURGESS: [01:36:18] Well, it was pretty standard. We played our football games, and then afterwards we did something a little different because we weren’t able to do what we usually did. So instead of just having the coaches there and us pray, the coaches, I don’t know exactly what they did. I’m assuming they left, but the whole team and the cheer squad or the cheerleaders, dancers, and a good portion of the parents and other team met at the 50-yard line and we prayed there. [01:36:48][30.1]

STARNES: [01:36:50] Elijah, now you said you guys had done this in the past, but somebody came and they told you not to pray. What were you guys doing in the past that caused controversy? [01:36:57][7.1]

BURGESS: [01:36:59] Praying. [01:36:59][0.0]

STARNES: [01:37:00] Is that right, and the coaches, were the coaches with you as well? [01:37:03][2.5]

BURGESS: [01:37:05] Yes sir, the coaches were praying with us, but it was something another along the lines of. It violated their contracts and with the whole school and church being together like that was a problem. [01:37:18][13.4]

STARNES: [01:37:21] Elijah, I’m curious to know what you and your teammates. How did you respond when you found out that you know you would not be able to pray initially? [01:37:30][9.0]

BURGESS: [01:37:32] We did it anyway. [01:37:32][0.5]

STARNES: [01:37:34] So you didn’t worry about any, any blowback or any, you know, possible punishments or anything. [01:37:38][4.1]

BURGESS: [01:37:41] No, not really. I mean, personally, for me, I mean, I couldn’t care less. You know, God before everything [01:37:48][6.9]

STARNES: [01:37:50] That’s I mean, that is a pretty bold and very courageous stand for a young man like yourself to take. And I’m wondering, you know, about your relationship, clearly, you’re a Christian young man. How important is your faith to you and your life? [01:38:03][13.1]

BURGESS: [01:38:04] Well, like I said, God, before everything. For me, I have like a certain list of things that God family, football. So that’s my list of priorities. [01:38:17][12.1]

STARNES: [01:38:19] Well, those are great priorities, and I think you’ve got every one of those lined up correctly, Elijah and on the Patriot mobile newsmaker line. Elijah Burgess with us from Oppermann High School in Tennessee. Elijah, what’s been the reaction from your teammates and from the people in the community? Had they been supportive of you guys? [01:38:39][19.8]

BURGESS: [01:38:40] Very, a lot of positivity. I mean, just as of the day Monday, I got to school a little bit later than I should have. So I had to go check up with our front office. And I had a letter from some lady in Michigan saying congratulations to me and to keep it up. [01:38:59][18.8]

STARNES: [01:39:01] Oh, that’s fantastic. And this image of you guys joining hands on the football field in prayer after that Friday night game, I got to tell you that I think inspired a lot of people around the nation, Elijah. [01:39:14][13.4]

BURGESS: [01:39:16] I think it did, too. [01:39:17][0.9]

STARNES: [01:39:18] All right. So big game. Who are you guys playing tonight? Walker Valley, Walker Valley are. Is that is that over in Bradley County? [01:39:26][7.6]

BURGESS: [01:39:28] I believe so. But it’s a home game, so the football games when we have an upcoming high school at seven o’clock tonight. [01:39:35][6.5]

STARNES: [01:39:35] All right. Seven o’clock under the Friday night lights there, folks. It’s going to be a good game. Elijah, what position do you play? [01:39:40][5.1]

BURGESS: [01:39:41] I’m the starting tight end. [01:39:42][1.2]

STARNES: [01:39:43] All right. Well, look, finish this. Best of luck to you, Elijah. You’re a good young man. Sounds like you’ve been raised, right? And I know your folks must be super proud of you. [01:39:53][10.1]

BURGESS: [01:39:54] Thank you, sir. [01:39:54][0.3]

STARNES: [01:39:55] All right. Elijah Burgess there, folks, member of the Oppermann High School Football Team and what a crazy story. The Freedom from Religion Foundation comes in and they raise a big stink about the football game and the prayers. And so the football players and I like this guy’s attitude is that while we really didn’t care one way or the other, if we were to get in trouble, we were going to get in trouble. But we’re going to go out there and do the right thing and very, very excited that we have young people like that here in here in the United States of America and right here in the good ole volunteer state of Tennessee. [01:40:31][36.8]

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