FFRF gets Illinois public schools to halt coach-led prayer

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has gotten a number of Illinois public schools districts to restrain coaches from leading prayers at school competitions.

The organization had written to three school districts a few weeks ago asking them to cease the practice.

“The basketball coaches’ conduct is unconstitutional because they endorse and promote religion when acting in their official capacities as school district representatives,” Ryan Jayne, FFRF’s Diane Uhl Legal Fellow, said in a Feb. 9 letter to the districts. “When public school employees acting in their official capacities organize and advocate for team prayer, they effectively endorse religion on the district’s behalf.” 

While not acknowledging any wrongdoing, the three school districts responded by stating that they’ll make certain this won’t happen in the future. The Dieterich School District also sent to FFRF a copy of a memo that Superintendent Cary Jackson circulated among all district employees emphasizing the district’s need to adhere to the U.S. Constitution.

“We, as a school district, absolutely have a respect for religion, but by federal law, cannot endorse it,” the memo reads. “Therefore, when our students choose to participate or initiate a student-led prayer, our employees may not participate in any way. Please remove yourself from the activity so that it cannot be assumed that you are initiating, organizing, endorsing or participating in prayer.” 

FFRF compliments the three school districts for their commitment to state/church separation.

“It’s gratifying that the three districts responded to FFRF’s complaint by pledging to be more alert in the future about introduction of prayer at school events,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “District officials know that this is inappropriate and wrong.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 23,000 members all over the county, including almost 800 members in Illinois.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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