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Indiana coach will no longer pray with team (December 13, 2018)

An Indiana public high school will instruct its coaches to stop participating in student prayer after intervention by FFRF.

A concerned South Gibson School Corporation community member reported that Gibson Southern High School personnel prayed with student athletes after a home game on Nov. 2.

A photo posted on social media shows coaching staff for both teams, as well as other adults, bowing their heads in prayer and placing their hands on students, along with the caption, “This is how two of the best football programs in southern Indiana complete a game . . . the power of prayer — at Gibson County, Ind.”

It is unconstitutional for public school athletic coaches to lead their teams in prayer, participate in student prayers, or to otherwise promote religion to students, FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne reminded the district in his Nov. 30 letter.

On Dec. 17, FFRF received a response letter from the school district’s attorney addressing the concerns and assuring it that the district would take action to ensure that it adheres to the First Amendment in the future.

“We want to emphasize to our personnel that they may not participate [in] any such student led prayer,” the letter read. “We further plan to instruct the school personnel, including all coaches, that they may not encourage, lead, initiate, mandate, either directly or indirectly, any such student prayer.”