See You at The Pole (SYATP), an optional, student led, annual prayer event, occurred on September 25th at Cedar Cliff High School. This event ranges far beyond Cedar Cliff, as students here joined with millions of Christians worldwide to sing worship songs, read scriptures, and pray for their school, friends, country, etc. Since its humble beginning in 1990, SYATP has spread from Texas to 64 countries, despite facing some controversy.
Current senior, Lesly Rodriguez, who is president of Cedar Cliff’s Salt and Light club (formerly known as Bible Club), helped spread the word about Cedar Cliff’s SYATP. She describes the event as, “A way to start my day in a special, spiritual way. I can lay out all my worries, and it’s nearly impossible to feel alone afterwards. We truly become one, even if it is only for a bit”
Even though Rodriguez, along with others, call SYATP a “unifying” event, SYATP has faced backlash over the years. For example, in 2006 school officials tried to deny students the right to participate at SYATP, but with foundations from the United States Constitution, and many 1st amendment related court cases, there has been little fear of SYATP being terminated.
Senior Caleb Roadcap, who has participated in many public prayer events including SYATP, believes that it is impossible to dispute SYATP’s legality. In regards to SYATP facing backlash for being unconstitutional, Roadcap says, “you have the freedom of religion and freedom of speech guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. It is constitutional because you are technically just voicing your opinion.”
To further back Roadcap’s claim, SYATP’s website has a list of 9 (although there are many more elsewhere) legal societies for proof that the event abides by the constitution. The website also dedicates a section to “knowing your rights.”
Although not directly related to SYATP, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District has been used to support First Amendment Rights such as SYATP. In the case, the holding used the First Amendment as applied through the Fourteenth Amendment, to allow students to wear a black armband as a protest against the Vietnam War. This case was later to support that SYATP is indeed constitutional.
Another substantial case in allowing SYATP to take place is Bd. of Educ. Of Westside Community Sch. Dist. v. Mergens. In this case, it was ruled that schools could not prohibit Bible Club meetings to take place after school if the school allowed other clubs to exist. This has been used to support elementary school students’ right to participate in SYATP as well. It is strongly advised, though, that younger children have a parent’s permission to participate since children are believed not to have the maturity to differentiate between an optional, student led event and a school held function.
Along with elementary students, teachers are often put in a gray area when it comes to being able to participate in SYATP. The National Legal Foundation says, “Those teachers who want to be perceived as non-state actors should not volunteer to supervise the event, personally announce the event in their classrooms, or encourage or discourage students’ participation.” Meaning that if teachers want to pray and not just participate in listening to a prayer, then they must act as citizens and not help run any portion of SYATP. Teachers, parents, and staff were present at this year’s SYATP at Cedar Cliff.
All in all, much of the stigma surrounding SYATP revolves around a misunderstood vision. Junior Bekah Dubose says, “I’ve seen things online saying that people who advocate going to SYATP are forcing them to be Christian and I disagree completely. Going to SYATP is a choice and no one should ever force you.”
Rodriguez also feels that SYATP participants are treated unfairly by some. “...if other students and teachers are allowed to have clubs, we should be allowed to stand outside of the school to pray once a year. Still though, I’m very impressed with how accepting Cedar Cliff has been with Salt and Light club and SYATP.”
Furthermore, SYATP’s mission is not to create a debate. On their website they declare that there should be no arguing, no matter how polite, during SYATP. Many believe the heart of SYATP is found in the group of Texas teenagers who miraculously started SYATP with just a few teens, and turned it into an international sensation. Their goal was not to divide, but to add world peace.
Caleb sums up SYATP’s true purpose, “Christians, and even those who just want to pray, can get together to hope and worship. It is an incredibly emotional experience. If something catastrophic were to happen or even something minor, we can all come together believing that better things will come.”
Amongst all of this, students are already planning SYATP for 2020 which is set to be September 23rd.