See You at the Pole
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See You at the Pole (SYATP) is an annual gathering of thousands of Christian students at a flagpole in front of their local school for prayer, scripture-reading and worship, during the early morning before school starts. The American SYATP events occur on the 23 of September at 7:00 A.M. while gathering around a school flag pole. The events began in 1990 in the United States, where public schools cannot sponsor prayers and some Christians see public schools as hostile to Christian students. It has grown by word of mouth, announcements at youth rallies and churches, and the Internet. It is now an international event; in 2005, over two million students in the U.S. participated, as well as students in Canada, Cote d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Germany, Ghana, Guam, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, South Korea, Malaysia, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, Portugal, Scotland, and South Africa.
Legal status in the United States
The organization advocating and guiding student participation in SYATP events insists that they be exclusively student-initiated and led without official endorsement or interference, according to rights affirmed by the Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District decision of the U.S. Supreme Court—as well as a 1995 Clinton administration assignment of the President's Secretary of Education for legalization of particular school religious activities as long as they passed constitutional guidelines. The American Civil Liberties Union also approves of student-led SYATP events held before or after school, provided the school neither encourages nor discourages participation.
Pastors, teachers, and other adults are often involved, and critics say that SYATP events often are only nominally student-led.
In 2006, school officials at South Floyd High School in Floyd County, Kentucky tried to deny students permission for the flag pole rally, but attorneys from the Rutherford Institute successfully argued that the rally was protected by free speech rights. "It's important that students, teachers and others know about their right to participate in See You at the Pole events—a right affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court," said John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, in a released statement. "The rallies are part of a long tradition of free and equal participation in expressive activities guaranteed by our Constitution."
In the case of Doe v. Wilson County School System (M.D. Tenn. 2006, pending), the ACLU alleged that a parent group promoted the SYATP event and a National Day of Prayer with support from the school. Support for SYATP was one of several religious endorsements alleged in the case, along with sing-along prayers, hymns, and a Nativity play.
See You at the Pole Rallies (often called Saw You at the Pole or See You after the Pole)
After SYATP rallies are events which usually take place the evening of SYATP. These rallies are sponsored by local churches or local youth ministry networks and generally include one or more of the following elements: Contemporary Christian Music concert, worship, testimonies, drama, and/or a speaker.
- Kwon, Lillian (26 September 2006). "Students Encouraged to Take Prayers, Bibles to School". Parish World. Retrieved 7 March 2008.
- "Katherine Stewart: How Christian clubs in schools turned into faith-based bullying". MinnPost. 22 June 2012. Retrieved 23 June 2012.
- Rowell, Jenn (9 September 2006). "Area students prepare to offer 'See You at the Pole' prayers". The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, VA). Retrieved 7 March 2008.