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Lauryn Seering

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A prayerful Indiana public school coach was given a talking to, following a Freedom From Religion Foundation complaint.

The girls' tennis coach at Bellmont High School in Decatur, Ind., led members of his team and their families in a Christian prayer at the last match of the year.

FFRF pointed out to school officials that it is illegal for public school coaches to guide their teams in prayer.

"The U.S. Supreme Court has continually struck down school-sponsored prayer in public schools," FFRF Legal Fellow Ryan Jayne wrote to North Adams Community Schools Superintendent Brent Lehman. "The coach's conduct is unconstitutional because he endorses and promotes his personal religion when acting in his official capacity as a school district employee. Therefore, he may not lead his team in prayer and he may not organize or advocate for students to pray." 

The school district got the message.

"I have investigated your report of June 16, 2016," Lehman replied in a letter. "The athletic director met with the coach about the allegedly improper behavior. The coach was reminded about rules and he expressed his intent to follow these rules in the future. The athletic director intends to issue a reminder to the entire coaching staff when school resumes this fall about such matters." 

FFRF is pleased at the swift reaction.

"Public school coaches have a responsibility to follow constitutional limitations placed against proselytizing a captive audience of students," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national organization dedicated to the separation of state and church, with nearly 24,000 nonreligious members nationwide, including more than 300 in Indiana.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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