Texas baseball coach strikes out on state/church separation

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has sent a letter of complaint to Pittsburg Independent School District in Texas after learning that a Pittsburg High School coach regularly brings religion into his interactions with students.

Head baseball coach Tommy Stewart reportedly conducts bible study with players after practice each Wednesday, punishing students who do not attend with 20 minutes of running. FFRF’s complainant reported that Stewart shows religious videos to his players, including the movie “God’s Not Dead,” and that the team’s official practice uniforms have printed on them, “With GOD all things are possible,” a New Testament bible verse.

FFRF wrote the district on April 2. “It is a violation of the Constitution for Stewart or any other coach to organize a bible study or religious movie viewing and discussion with students,” said Staff Attorney Sam Grover, charging that Stewart is “actively indoctrinating his players into his personal religion.”

FFRF also objected to the religious team uniforms, saying they send a message of exclusion to non-Christian and nonreligious students.

Before FFRF had even written the district, word of the local complainant’s objections were making local media. Superintendent Judy Pollan sent a message of support for Stewart to staffers, writing, “We are blessed to have a man who feels called to work with our boys as they make the transition into manhood. I WOULD MOST CERTAINLY RATHER BE REPORTED FOR DOING SOMETHING GOOD RATHER THAN DOING SOMETHING BAD.”

Pollan warned that FFRF “is the same [group] that caused White Oak and Mt. Vernon problems,” and chastised the local complainant for “hid[ing] behind the camera and not show[ing] her face.” She concluded her email with a bible quote: “Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.”

“FFRF is pleased to report it has experienced no withering as of today, and is prepared to alert the police should anyone attempt to ‘cut down’ its ‘workers of iniquity,’ ” noted FFRF Co-President Dan Barker.

“It shows the extent of the problem that the superintendent, instead of taking corrective measures against the coach, compounds the violation by misusing her public authority to espouse her personal beliefs. This public school district’s promotion of religion turns Christians into ‘insiders’ and the rest of us into ‘outsiders,’ and that is unacceptable.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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