A simple newspaper profile published last week about an inspirational high school football coach has led the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist activist group, to charge the athletics leader with perpetuating a "constitutional violation."
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The accusation is rooted in a recent story published in the Anniston Star, a local newspaper in Aniston, Alabama, which describes the character and career of Eddie Bullock, the athletic director and football coach at Anniston High School.
After praising Bullock's leadership and the discipline he instills in young players, the article notes that the coach recently spent some time in the locker room encouraging and speaking with players following a loss on the field.
Columnist Joe Medley wrote that Bullock told the team that he was proud despite the end result of the game, then told the players to pray with one another.
"Bullock told his team to rise up and put a hand on a teammate. He asked for a prayer leader, and a player nicknamed 'Pee Wee' stepped up. After 'Pee Wee’s' prayer, a room full of young men said the Lord’s Prayer," Medley wrote. "This young Anniston team might struggle to get 11 players all hitting their assignments between a given center’s snap and referee’s whistle, but the Bulldogs sure can nail the Lord’s Prayer. The voices delivered the words with a cadence that would have made the marching band proud."
It was this claim — that Bullock led students into prayer — that caused the Freedom From Religion Foundation to fire off a letter to Anniston City Schools superintendent Darren Douthitt claiming that a "serious constitutional violation" had unfolded.
"While students may wish to engage in prayer on their own, school staff, including coaches cannot organize, lead, encourage, or participate in such religious activities," the letter reads. "The Supreme Court has continually struck down school-sponsored prayer in public schools."
The letter, written by Freedom From Religion Foundation attorney Andrew Seidel, concludes by asking that Anniston City Schools take action to prevent coaches from leading, participating in, inviting, organizing or even encouraging prayer.
"Coaches must be informed of their legal obligations and school administrators should be directed to monitor school events to ensure compliance," Seidel concluded. "We ask that you inform us promptly in writing of the steps you are taking to address this matter."
But it doesn't appear as though the district has plans to respond to the Freedom From Religion Foundation's grievances.
In a brief phone conversation with TheBlaze Tuesday, Douthitt said, "I have no plans regarding that letter," before abruptly hanging up the phone.
(H/T: Friendly Atheist)
Front page image via Shutterstock.com.