FFRF warns coaches to ignore preacher and obey law


The Freedom From Religion Foundation is asking public schools and coaches nationwide to abide by their constitutional duty not to proselytize students. FFRF’s statement comes in the wake of a call by the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, urging coaches to break the law and pray with their students.

Graham’s appeal for uncivil disobedience comes in response to a recent 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision correctly holding that a public school employee cannot use his position to impose religion on public school students. This constitutional mandate has infuriated Graham, who urged in a Facebook post that “football coaches across the country” go out on the field this Friday, Sept. 1, “wherever they are and pray…”

FFRF, a national state/church watchdog, is encouraging its members and supporters to attend games and report any state-church violations, including coaches praying with their teams, via its web form.

“Graham is unethically inciting coaches to violate the rights of students,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “If players have to pray to play — to suffer through a coach-led and -encouraged prayer — FFRF will be there to defend their rights.”

FFRF warns of possible fiscal consequences if coaches respond to Graham’s plea.

“This is especially reckless of Graham because the school district would bear the financial burden of a losing lawsuit his call may result in,” adds Andrew L. Seidel, an attorney and FFRF’s director of strategic response. “The law is clear. Any coach that prays with his team or imposes prayer on his students is violating that law.”

The law is indeed clear, as FFRF explained to Bremerton School District, which ended up defending the case before the 9th Circuit. Joe Kennedy, an assistant football coach there, misused his job to promote religion and was not retained, a decision upheld by the appeals court.

FFRF Co-President Dan Barker tackles Graham on his own turf: “If Graham is such a believer in the bible, he ought to read Matthew 6:5-6, where Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, condemns public prayer as hypocrisy.”

FFRF will be closely monitoring the situation.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nonprofit membership organization that advocates for the separation of church and state and educates on matters relating to nontheism. It has more than 29,000 members residing in every state of the United States and chapters all over the country.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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