The Freedom From Religion Foundation has quelled an Oklahoma high school football coach’s unconstitutional prayers.
The legal violation occurring at Norman Public Schools in Norman, Okla., was reported to FFRF by a concerned parent after a Norman High School football coach led players in prayer before a football game last month. The coach reportedly asked the “Lord” for "wisdom," and bowed with the team. A video of the incident was shared on the team’s Facebook page.
In a letter sent to the district, FFRF wrote that it is illegal for public school athletic coaches to lead their teams in prayer. The Supreme Court has continually struck down school-sponsored prayer in public schools because it constitutes a government advancement and endorsement of religion — a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Public school coaches must refrain not only from leading prayers themselves, but also from participating in students’ prayers. It is unconstitutional for public school employees to participate in the religious activities of their students.
“This coach’s conduct was unconstitutional because he endorsed and promoted his religion while acting in his official capacity as a school district representative,” says FFRF Legal Fellow Christopher Line. “Certainly, he represented the school and the team when he acted in his role as a coach of the NHS football team.”
A legal representative of the district has responded, notifying FFRF that the violation had been investigated and that the coach’s supervisor has informed him that it is his legal obligation to refrain from imposing his personal religious beliefs onto players.
FFRF salutes the school district for taking action to rectify the violation.
“It’s commendable that the school district acknowledged the violation and acted promptly to protect its students’ constitutional rights,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. “Prayer has no place on a public school football field.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with over 30,000 members and 20 chapters across the country, including more than 150 members in Oklahoma. FFRF's purposes are to protect the constitutional separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.