FFRF tackles unconstitutional prayer in Indiana


The Freedom From Religion Foundation has stopped coach-led Christian prayer at an Indiana school district.

A concerned district community member reported to FFRF that the South Dearborn High School head football coach, Rand Ballart, led students in the Lord’s Prayer prior to a football game in October. The next day, Ballart posted a video of him leading the prayer on a social media fan page for the school.

In a letter sent to Superintendent John Mehrle, FFRF warned that it is illegal for public school athletic coaches to lead their teams in prayer, participate in student prayers or to otherwise promote religion to students. The Supreme Court has continually struck down school-sponsored prayer in public schools, and specifically has included the Lord’s Prayer.

Such prayer constitutes a government advancement and endorsement of religion – a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

“Coach Ballart’s conduct is unconstitutional because he endorses and promotes religion when acting in his official capacity as a school district representative,” wrote FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne. “Certainly, he represents the school and the team when he acts as a coach of the Knights.”

When public school employees acting in their official capacities organize and advocate for team prayer, they effectively endorse religion on the district’s behalf. FFRF requested that the district take action to ensure South Dearborn High coaches not pray with students during athletic programs or otherwise promote religion.

Mehrle responded by informing FFRF that Ballart had been instructed not to lead, encourage or participate in student prayer. FFRF is saluting the district for remedying the violation.

“It’s commendable that the school district has acted to protect its students’ constitutional rights,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Religion is divisive and has no place on a public school football field.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with over 30,000 members across the country, including more than 450 members in Indiana. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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