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Religion removed from Ala. wrestling program (October 2023)

The Alabaster City School District in Alabama has taken steps to keep religion out of its schools’ wrestling programs after FFRF intervened.

A parent reported to FFRF that the wrestling program for Thompson Middle School and Thompson High School used a religious mantra for the team which appeared on official team documents and on social media. The mantra was “#LiveRightPrayWorkHard.” Additionally, the team also participated in Operation Christmas Child, a charity project sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse. Samaritan’s Purse is a pervasively sectarian religious organization.

FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line wrote to Superintendent Dr. Wayne Vickers. The school district’s legal representative Melissa B. McKie responded, explaining that the wrestling program had participated in various community service projects sponsored by both religious and nonreligious organizations over the years, though none was mandatory.

“Nevertheless, the school system has spoken with the coach to remind him that while students may independently participate in service projects sponsored by religious organizations, he should not select projects that require students to participate in or endorse religious activity in the future,” McKie wrote.

In regard to the hashtag, McKie reported that the school system had never officially approved the hashtag, but it had been widely adopted by coaches, parents and students in the wrestling program. Fortunately, “the school system is taking steps to ensure that the hashtag does not appear on the official social media accounts that it controls and that it is not used on official documents utilized by the wrestling program in the future.”