Religious coercion by coach ended (September 12, 2014)

Eustis High School in Eustis Fla., will no longer permit a football coach to require prayer before team meals in the school’s cafeteria. FFRF received a complaint that the coach would often call upon players at random to offer prayers before the entire team. FFRF also raised concerns about a local citizen promoting prayer events at school on an unaffiliated Facebook page titled #PRAYWITHEUSTIS.

FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel sent a letter on Sept. 11 to the district advising them to cease school-led prayer before football meals. Seidel warned the district that if the #PRAYWITHEUSTIS event was school-sponsored in any way it must be cancelled:

“If this event is school-sponsored it is illegal. . . Permitting events like #PRAYWITHEUSTIS to take place on school property, in connection with a school sanctioned event ‘sends the message to members of the audience who are not Christian that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community and accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.’”

An attorney for the Lake County Schools district sent a response on Sept. 12: “Be advised that we are aware of the pitfalls of any coach promoting organized prayer and direct our coaches accordingly. Any misstep that might have occurred at a meal involving [the coach] has been corrected and we do not expect it to occur again. As to the Facebook advertisement that you provided that came from a private citizen who has not contacted the school regarding her promotion and which was unknown at the school until we received this correspondence, be advised that we are appropriately dealing with that situation as well.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation