Coaches at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., have been instructed to stop proselytizing their student athletes, following a complaint by the Freedom from Religion Foundation.
The football coach at Appalachian State University, Jerry Moore, had been inviting preachers to give sermons and pray in Jesus’ name at pregame dinners, which all student athletes on the football teams attended. Moore also led a bible-study class and encouraged his players to attend it.
FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott contacted the college’s Chancellor, Dr. Kenneth Peacock, in a Nov. 8 letter. Elliott asked the Chancellor to, “discontinue the practice of instituting team prayers, sermons, and bible studies for ASU football players.”
ASU’s general counsel responded in a Feb. 6 letter that the coach’s proselytizing has “no legitimate place in the University’s athletic programs.” He said a student athlete could see the coach’s “religious observances” as coercive.
“It is highly unlikely that a coach would look favorably upon a student athlete who walked out of a team meeting when a preacher, at the coach’s invitation, began to deliver a sermon or a team prayer,” he said. “In these circumstances, it would not be unreasonable for a student athlete to consider the atmosphere created by such religious observances coercive.”
The proselytizing coach left ASU for unrelated reasons, but the general counsel said ASU has reminded each of its coaches that the previous football coach’s behavior is not acceptable.