A public school football coach is claiming he was terminated from his position for allowing players at Catalina Foothills High School in Tucson, Arizona, to pray before and after games.
Gary Weiss, formerly a volunteer coach with the district, said that he was given an ultimatum by school officials: tell players to stop praying or lose his position. He refused and opted for the latter option, according to KVOA-TV.
"My concern is the rights of the kids to do what is their right to do," Weiss told the outlet.
District administrators said, though, that voluntary prayer is permitted, but that staff members cannot facilitate or promote student invocations.
The central question is whether Weiss was guilty of organizing or supporting prayers among team members — something the coach denies, claiming that no adults led the invocations. Weiss also said that the prayers were inclusive.
"The prayers of the freshmen team have been recited by Muslim kids, Jewish kids, and Christian kids," Weiss told KVOA-TV.
He is reportedly no longer permitted on school property.
Reactions to the termination have emerged on social media, with former students and others lambasting the district's decision.
Wow, can't believe a school would do this. My prayers go out to one of my former coaches, Gary Weiss http://t.co/7Atenu4fzv— Ryan Penny (@ryanpenny6)September 16, 2014
@dhaines71 this is pathetic..Gary Weiss is an amazing coach and an even better man, changed my life...foothills dropped the ball on this one— Cameron Dwan (@CameronDwan) September 16, 2014
Catalina Foothills should be ashamed! MANY suffer as a result of decision by a FEW narrow minded administrators! http://t.co/6POyFUjInS— Doug Haines- (@dhaines71) September 16, 2014
Front page image via Shutterstock.com