A high school football team is under fire from atheists who say that prayer and Bible scriptures reportedly being shared with players and plastered on official team stationary violate the separation of church and state.
Chestatee High School, a public institution in Gainesville, Georgia, caught the ire of the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center, a secular legal firm, after activists said they learned of specific religious activities being undertaken by officials.
“We have been informed that the school’s football coaches have been using their position to promote Christianity on the football team by integrating Bible verses into functional team documents and team promotions in various ways,” read a letter sent to officials at Hall County School District. “Meanwhile, they have been either leading the team in prayer or participating in team prayers on a regular basis.”
According to the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, the participation in these activities by public school football coaches amounts to a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Photos attached to the complaint letter seemingly shed light on some of the group’s First Amendment grievances. In one picture, football players are in a circle holding hands and engaging in what appears to be prayer.
And in another picture a team workout sheet references Galatians 6:9; there is also another photo of what appears to be a team banner, complete with a reference to Proverbs 21:17.
The Appignani Humanist Legal Center letter asked that football coaches cease the “unconstitutional activity” immediately, noting that a lawsuit could be filed against the district for violating the Establishment Clause.
But Monica Miller, an attorney with the group, said she expects the district to comply with the atheist legal firm’s demands.
“I think it would be very unusual in this circumstance for them to refuse to comply,” Miller told the Gainesville Times.
A spokesperson for Hall County School District also told the outlet that officials are taking the matter seriously and exploring whether the atheist group’s accusations hold merit.
And superintendent Will Schofield also spoke out, telling the Times that personnel should not be leading prayer, but that students’ right to invoke God should and will be protected.
“Certainly adults shouldn’t be leading children in prayers to any particular religion, but one thing we will stand behind is our students’ right to prayer,” he said.
The district said that it will take action if it is determined that a violation unfolded.
(H/T: Gainesville Times)