Last week, we learned that Christianity was the glue that bound together the Chestatee High School football team in Gainesville, Georgia. The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center even had pictures of coaches involved in a team prayer, a Bible verse quoted on the team’s workout log sheet, and cheerleaders hoisting banners with Bible verses on them.
The AHA sent the district a letter warning them of the legal problems, but Superintendent Will Schofield hasn’t responded to them.
Instead, he spoke to a local newspaper about why he doesn’t give a damn what they wrote to him:
“I don’t spend much time reacting quickly to letters from people who live a thousand miles away,” said Schofield…
Keep in mind the letter was sent on behalf of someone in the community. For all we know, it’s someone on the team.
Schofield did, however, send a memo to all school employees reminding them of what the law says:
… The Hall County School District wholeheartedly defends the almost unlimited rights of students to exercise their religious beliefs. As long as activities do not infringe upon or disrespect the religious beliefs of others, or disrupt classroom instruction or school routines, students have the right to pray, read religious materials, talk to their classmates about their beliefs, and following district protocol, form clubs or associations with students who share similar interests. Voluntary, student-led prayers fall within these criteria.Hall County Schools will continue to be a place that celebrates our nation’s founding principle of respecting differing viewpoints. Once again, as long as the expression of individual beliefs is not disruptive or harmful to others, we will cultivate and strive to model a culture of respect.
By law, and under current legal interpretation by the courts, public school employees on the job do not enjoy the same level of religious freedom at school as do our students, yet their religious rights do not evaporate at the schoolhouse gate. Teachers, coaches, administrators, and other school employees may live out their faith in a variety of ways; however, they must not be leading students in prayer during school or school-sponsored activities, nor may they require or pressure students to participate in religious activities.
That may take care of the team prayer issue, as long as it’s enforced, but it still doesn’t address the Bible verse on official workout sheets.
What bothers me is how little Schofield seems to care about the non-Christian students in his district. These incidents don’t happen in isolation. If we’re only seeing the problems on the football team, who knows how much worse it is everywhere else? Schofield shows little if any empathy for students who may not be religious, but he keeps talking about how he wants to respect everybody’s rights.
That doesn’t happen when one religion is given special treatment.
The AHA says they’re waiting for his official response, but Schofield hasn’t indicated when that will come. It’s like he’s just begging for the district to be hit with a lawsuit.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)