How much proof do you need that a public high school football team has an illegal dose of religion infused into it?
How about a picture of a team prayer?
How about a Bible verse quoted on the team’s workout log sheet?
How about a religious banner hoisted up by cheerleaders during one of the games?
All of those images come from the Chestatee High School football team in Gainesville, Georgia. Earlier today, the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent Hall County School District administrators a letter warning them about the legal implications of coaches pushing faith onto the students:
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; meanwhile, they have been either leading the team in prayer or participating in team prayers on a regular basis. This type of religious activity, by government employees in the course of their duties as public school football coaches, is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause. This letter demands that CHS coaching staff cease leading, participating in, or encouraging team prayer, and that the school remove all Bible verses and other religious messages from team documents and related materials
District officials are aware of the issue and told a local newspaper that they are investigating the matter and will respond soon.
It’s entirely possible the district could argue that the cheerleaders’ banner is student-created, the same argument made by the cheerleaders in Kountze, Texas. But that, mixed with all the other instances of prayer, makes it very unlikely that this is an isolated incident.
If the coaches are leading the prayers, and the AHLC says Head Coach Stan Luttrell did just that, it’s certainly unconstitutional. And it’s hard to imagine any way of rationalizing the Bible verse on the workout log.
It goes without saying that if the AHLC’s letter is accurate, there’s immense pressure on all team members to go with the flow. If they complain, they risk alienating their coaches and losing playing time. That’s why the whistleblower (who knows if it’s a team member) must remain anonymous.
By the way, it’s not like the prayers seem to be helping them out. Last year, the team lost 55-7 in an early round of the state playoffs.