Coach-Led Prayers Stopped at Pennsylvania School Games

An FFRF member alerted the Foundation to a violation involving a public high school football coach in Farrell, Pa., regularly gathering players for prayers before each game. FFRF Staff Attorney Rebecca S. Markert wrote a letter (Jan. 26, 2010) to the Farrell Area School District superintendent pointing out that “the federal courts have struck down prayer in public schools because it constitutes a government endorsement of religion, which violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.” Prayers at football games “would lead anyone participating on the team or in attendance to believe that the Farrell Area School District is endorsing religion, and specifically, in this case, Christianity,” the letter said, and requested a full investigation. The district superintendent responded with a letter (Feb. 2), stating: “In reviewing this issue, it appears that these coaches crossed the line with regard to state/church behaviors.” The superintendent met with the high school principal and athletic director, advising them and circulating a memo among the school’s staff, regarding appropriate and acceptable behaviors with state/church issues. The letter thanked FFRF for bringing the issue to the district’s attention and agreed to “stay alert with regard to behaviors which might be deemed to be violations of state/church relations.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation