FFRF halts public school coach from organizing prayer

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has halted team prayers by a Michigan public school softball coach.

Last May, FFRF sent a letter to North Branch Area Schools Superintendent Thomas English alerting him that North Branch High School softball coach Willie Deshetsky was leading his team members in prayer. FFRF sent English photos of Deshetsky’s team prayerfully holding hands with him.

“It is illegal for public school athletic coaches to lead their team in prayer,” FFRF Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert wrote. “Public school coaches must refrain not only from leading their students in prayers, but also from participating in prayers themselves. It is unconstitutional for public school employees to participate in the religious activities of their students.” 

FFRF finally received a response a few weeks ago informing the organization that the coach had been asked to desist.

“Coach Willie Deshetsky was officially informed he cannot organize, advocate or lead the softball team in prayer,” North Branch Athletic Director James Fish said in his reply. 

FFRF appreciates the school district’s step.

“Public schools must protect their students from being pressured to pray,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. “And coaches need to know that they can’t expect student athletes to pray to play.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a state/church watchdog group with 23,000 members nationally, including more than 600 in Michigan.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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