Lucas Christian Academy, located outside Dallas, has a 6-man football team that went undefeated in the regular season. Football games are a source of school spirit and community for its 400 students. After a dispute this fall over a city permit for field lights for the school’s homecoming game, LCA came out a winner in the state of Friday night lights.
LCA’s home field doesn’t have permanent field lights, so the team typically plays either at its opponents’ fields or, if at home, on Saturdays during daylight.
“Our regular season games have been on Saturdays during the day,” Head of School Jasmine Bayliss told The Lion. “Given that we’re in Texas, (the heat) is brutal on the athletes.”
A special exception has always been the school’s annual homecoming game. For that game, LCA asks for a special permit from city officials to allow temporary lighting at the stadium. The game is the one opportunity each season to play under Friday night lights on the home field.
“We bring in lights and food trucks. It is Texas small-town football at its best,” said Bayliss.
Since 2011, the city has approved the school’s request for temporary exterior field lights on Friday nights without any issues. But this year, the permit was denied.
“Even though it is a once-a-year event, [some neighbors view the] lights as an intrusion into their peace and quiet,” said Bayliss. “Others resent the existence of a Christian school and have spoken on record to the city about this. We continue to try to be good neighbors to them.”
When the permit was denied, Lucas Christian reached out to Texas-based First Liberty Institute, the nation’s largest legal organization dedicated to defending religious liberty. A week before the game, First Liberty and volunteer attorneys from Jones Day law firm went to court to ask a judge to prevent the city from discriminating against the school and stopping its game.
LCA prevailed, and was allowed to have its homecoming game under the lights.
“Friday night lights are part of the culture, tradition, and landscape of Texas,” said Hiram Sasser, Executive General Counsel at First Liberty Institute. “We are grateful that city officials did the right thing by allowing LCA to do what kids across Texas get to do every Friday night in the fall.”
Ms. Bayliss agrees. “We were overjoyed! We were at a loss as to what to do to resolve this issue. It meant so much to our community to be able to continue our homecoming tradition on our home field.”