Football coaches doff religious T-shirts (September 29, 2014)

Akron Public Schools in Akron, Ohio, has stopped football coaches from wearing religious T-shirts once again. In 2013, FFRF filed a complaint with the district after Buchtel Community Learning Center athletic personnel and faculty wore T-shirts stating “God Rules Buchtel Athletics” and “Jesus Is My Hero.” The district reported taking swift action but the T-shirts resurfaced this September with the football team.

FFRF Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert reminded the district on Sept. 25 that coaches, like teachers, are restricted from certain religious activities and expression while acting in their official capacities for the school: “These coaches were working with public school students at a regularly scheduled school-sponsored activity. Thus, they cannot wear religious T-shirts.”

The Akron Board of Education responded on Sept. 29: “Upon further investigation into these T-shirts, I have become aware that they were being specifically donated to Buchtel CLC by one of the churches in the Akron area. . . I will be forwarding them a letter explaining that the T-shirts they are donating to the school’s athletic program violate the Akron Board of Education’s dress code policy.”

The board had a meeting with the football coaching staff on Sept. 29, “to discuss the prohibition of wearing religious T-shirts” and to remind the football coach of his “duty to continuously enforce theses rules with his coaches.”

The board thanked FFRF for promptly bringing this issue to their attention, adding that, “We are taking immediate action to instruct our coaching staff to refrain from wearing any type of religious T-shirts. Because new coaches are continuously being hired into new positions throughout the district, we have placed the issue of wearing religious T-shirts on the agenda for the upcoming district-wide meeting of all coaches and athletic directors.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation