What a Coach and Football Players Were Doing in This Photo Helped Spark Atheist-Led Lawsuit Against a Georgia School District

Atheists are suing a Georgia school district over claims that it is “promoting prayer and Christianity through its athletics programs.”

Hall County School District in Gainesville, Georgia, is under fire from the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center, which cites complaints from parents, students and local residents who believe that officials have facilitated and perpetuated First Amendment violations.

“Plaintiff Jane Coe is a citizen of the United States, of the State of Georgia, and is a resident with the School District. She owns property in the School District and pays taxes to support it,” reads a portion of the complaint. “She is aggrieved by the acts and practices complained of herein because the School District affiliates itself with, prefers, promotes and endorses religion, as more fully set forth herein.”

A picture that reportedly shows team prayer (American Humanist Association)
A picture that reportedly shows team prayer (American Humanist Association)

As TheBlaze reported in August, complaints have centered on Chestatee High School football coaches, who have been accused of leading student players in prayer.

Additionally, coaches are accused of placing Bible verses on official team documents. The American Humanist Association alleges that these activities have gone on for at least five years.

The issues reportedly extend beyond football, though, with the organization accusing wrestling and baseball coaches and a band director of also participating in prayer with students.

A team banner featuring a Bible verse (American Humanist Association)
A team banner featuring a Bible verse (American Humanist Association)

“By endorsing Christianity in its sports programs, the school district is demonstrating its disregard for students of minority faiths or students of no faith at all,” American Humanist Association’s executive director Roy Speckhardt said in a statement. “Public school districts must create secular environments that are welcoming to all students.”

A screen shot outlines just a few of the complaints mentioned in the lawsuit:

American Humanist Association
American Humanist Association

While superintendent Will Schofield told the Gainesville Times that personnel should not be leading prayer, but that students’ right to invoke God should and will be protected in August, the atheist group claims “the school district has continued its policy and practice of promoting religion.”

The American Humanist Association sent two letters to the district before filing the lawsuit, which seeks a court agreement that the district violated the Establishment Clause and an injunction preventing future infractions.

A phone message left for a Hall County School District representative was not immediately returned to TheBlaze Tuesday.

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