ICC Note: The Freedom From Religion Foundation recently issued a letter of complaint after the coach of an Indiana high school football team was photographed praying with players. The letter, as sent to the district’s superintendent, suggested that the prayer was unconstitutional as he is an employee of the public school system, and it would therefore serve as a government endorsement of religion. As in similar cases in the past, the group requested that the school district investigate the issue and cease any religious practices of this nature.
By Garrett Haley
11/26/2017 United States (Christian News Network) – A national professing atheist organization is urging an Indiana school district to launch an investigation into their high school football program after a local newspaper published a picture of the head coach praying with team members after a recent game.
In a letter to the superintendent of the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) described a “constitutional violation” that occurred after a recent high school football game between F.J. Reitz High School and Mater Dei High School.
“A concerned district community member contacted us to report that F.J. Reitz High School personnel, including head football coach Andy Hape, prayed with student athletes after a game against Mater Dei High School on Oct. 13,” the correspondence stated.
“It is illegal for public school athletic coaches to lead their teams in prayer, participate in student prayers, or to otherwise promote religion to students,” the atheist group asserted. “We are writing to request assurances that this constitutional violation will not recur in the future.”
The post-game prayer was brought to FFRF’s attention after a local resident notified them of a picture published in Evansville’s local newspaper, the Evansville Courier & Press. In the picture, shown above, Hape can be seen gathered together with members of the football team after the game, their heads bowed in prayer.
“Coach Hape’s conduct is unconstitutional because he endorses and promotes religion when acting in his official capacity as a school district representative,” FFRF’s letter contended. “Certainly, he represents the school and the team when he acts as a coach of the Panthers. When public school employees acting in their official capacities organize and advocate for team prayer, they effectively endorse religion on the district’s behalf.”
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