Olive Branch High School in Hernando, Miss., will no longer permit its football coach to organize Christian pre-game prayers with his players, thanks to a complaint by FFRF. Staff Attorney Sam Grover sent a letter May 15 as a follow up to a 2011 violation, in which prayers were blasted over the loudspeakers at games. A resident in the community who regularly attends high school football games reported that since prayer over the loudspeaker was halted, the coach has continually led players in prayer despite the previous warning.
“It is a violation of the Constitution for [any coach] to organize or participate in prayers before football games,” Grover informed DeSoto County Schools. “As you are aware from our August 2011 letter, it is illegal for a public school to sponsor religious messages at school athletic events. The Supreme Court has continually struck down teacher or school-led prayer in public schools. . . The controlling Court of Appeals in Mississippi has held that coach involvement in prayer at practices and games is unconstitutional because the prayers ‘take place during school-controlled, curriculum-related activities that members of the [athletic] team are required to attend. During these activities [district] coaches and other school employees are present as representatives of the school and their actions are representative of [district] policies.’”
On June 9, Principal Allyson Killough replied to FFRF that the coach “has been instructed not to pray with his team.”