Separate religion and lacrosse, FFRF chides N.C. school district

You can’t permit your lacrosse program to commit a constitutional offside, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is admonishing a North Carolina school district.

Newton Babb, a teacher and head lacrosse coach at East Forsyth High School, has been leading his team in prayers before and after games. Babb either directs students to pray or leads prayers himself. And he regularly participates in the Lord’s Prayer with the team.

“Coach Babb’s conduct is unconstitutional because he endorses and promotes his religion when acting in his official capacity as a school district employee,” writes FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line in a letter to the superintendent of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. “Certainly, he represents the school and the team when he acts in his official role as head coach of the lacrosse team.” 

It is illegal for public school athletic coaches to lead their teams in prayer, FFRF reminds the district. The Supreme Court has continually struck down school-sponsored prayer in public schools: “Regardless of the listener’s support for, or objection to, the message, an objective Santa Fe High School student will unquestionably perceive the inevitable pregame prayer as stamped with her school’s seal of approval” because it occurred at a “regularly scheduled school-sponsored function conducted on school property.” (Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, 2000)

“It’s outrageous that the school district is allowing such a blatant fusion of religion and lacrosse,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “This has to be immediately sundered in keeping with our secular Constitution.”

FFRF is a national nonprofit organization with more than 36,000 members and several chapters across the country, including more than 800 members and a local chapter in North Carolina. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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